For Whom Does the Majority Rule?
The majority rules.
This principle is a fundamental within systems of self-government. Sometimes that majority may be huge; at other times, it may be razor thin. Either way, the will of the majority prevails.
But even as it allows the majority to work its will, a governing system must also protect the rights of the minority. America’s founding fathers recognized this. They passed the Bill of Rights to ensure that every American enjoys basic rights — rights that cannot be taken away, even by a near unanimous majority.
One governing body where the majority rules is the House of Representatives. There, the leaders of the majority party wield tremendous power. And all too often, that power is being used to shut out the minority party.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has repeatedly exercised her power in ways that deny Republican members the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Americans they represent.
However, just as the Bill of Rights assures certain rights for all Americans, so the rules of the House assure a few basic rights to the minority party.
One of those protected rights is the ability to offer one amendment to each major bill. That amendment is called a Motion to Recommit or MTR. House Republicans have exercised their right to offer MTRs judiciously — so well, in fact, that they have been able occasionally to garner significant Democratic support despite opposition from Speaker Pelosi.
In February, Republicans offered an MTR to support Israel. It passed with zero votes against it—the first MTR to pass the House since 2010. Just two weeks later, another MTR passed. The amendment provided that illegal immigrants who try to purchase a firearm illegally would be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
These Democratic “defections” from the progressive party line do not sit well with Speaker Pelosi and her far-left colleagues. But many of the House Democrats who unseated Republicans in 2018 ran not as progressives but as pragmatic and moderate problem-solvers.
This positioning has led some to support Republican MTRs. And, by voting with the minority and against their leadership, they’ve proven that MTRs are not mere “procedural votes.” Rather, they are votes that can affect meaningful policy change. This should lead voters in their districts to scrutinize each and every MTR vote.
For example, why did 227 Democrats vote against ensuring that only U.S. citizens vote in our elections? Did the people of central Virginia or Iowa really believe this is how they would be represented when they elected Abigail Spanberger or Abby Finkenauer or Cynthia Axne?
Or why did all but two Democrats turn their backs on victims of domestic violence who believe they are in mortal danger and need a firearm to protect themselves from an abusive partner or spouse? Is that what the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania or the Dallas area were expecting when they voted for Connor Lamb and Colin Allred?
Or why did 213 Democrats abandon the children of veterans by refusing to protect them from child care workers with records of sexual abuse or violent crime? Is that what the folks in Utah and Long Island, N.Y., hoped to see from Ben McAdams and Max Rose?
Yes, Democrats capitalized on a favorable election year and won the majority of seats in the House. But many of those new members won by promising to represent the will of the majority of their district.
In 2020, the opponents of swing-district Democrats are sure to remind voters of how their representatives voted on common-sense, mainstream MTRs. “Moderate” House Democrats would do well to remember that, at the polling booths, it is the majority, not the Majority Leader, that rules.
Jessica Anderson is former associate director of intergovernmental affairs for the Office of Management and Budget and current vice president of Heritage Action.