House Democrats have repeatedly faced surprise Republican floor attacks since taking control of the chamber, part of a bid by the GOP to target their most vulnerable members and fracture the party. Just six weeks in, the GOP effort has been an astonishing success — dividing Pelosi and her top deputies and pitting members of the freshmen class against each other.
At issue is a wonky procedural tactic that Republicans have weaponized to split Democrats on a range of thorny issues, from sexual abuse to anti-terrorism funding. Roughly two dozen Democrats have so far bucked their party and sided with Republicans on the votes, which offer the House minority one last chance to shape legislation on the floor.
As the GOP continues to peel off rank-and-file Democrats, party leaders have grown alarmed — and are increasingly engaged in finger-pointing about who is to blame for the disunity and what to do about it, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides.
Freshmen Democrats in swing districts say they have no plan to stop voting with the GOP when they feel the need. They’ve even been given the blessing to do so by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), despite resistance from Pelosi.
“Clearly you’re doing this as a ploy and not because you actually give a shit about the issue,” freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) said of House Republicans. “It makes it hard for those of us who do vote against the [GOP proposals], who are in similarly tough districts.”
Republicans have forced more than a dozen of these votes — known as a motion to recommit — on the House floor since January, with increasing numbers of Democrats voting for them each time.
GOP leaders scored their biggest victory yet with the maneuver on Wednesday after a dramatic moment on the floor in which Democrats were forced to add language condemning anti-Semitism to an unrelated bill. Eager to project unity, all Democrats voted for it — the first time since 2010 a motion to recommit was approved by the House.