At the beginning of each Congress, the House of Representatives votes on a set of rules that they operate under for the entirety of the upcoming session.

Most provisions that the House will pass are relatively non-controversial and set the requirements for things like the congressional schedule, how Congress will keep records, and how Members of Congress can use their office funds.

However, some of those rules make it harder to pass progressive legislation. There are two provisions in particular that present a barrier to progressive legislation: the “Motion to Recommit” (or “MTR”) and the “Pay as You Go rule” (or “PayGo”).


The Motion to Recommit gives the minority party a last-minute chance to attach a poison pill amendment or force a controversial vote in the minutes before a bill is voted on for final passage. Republicans have weaponized MTRs as a way to introduce “gotcha” amendments that are kept secret until minutes before they are voted on. Unfortunately some Democrats have fallen for this trap, and allowed Republicans to divide Democrats and endanger popular bills.

Two examples where Republicans used motions to recommit to add divisive or counterproductive language to progressive bills that they know will otherwise pass.

  1. Before the vote on H.R. 8, which expands background checks to close gaps like the gun show loophole, Republicans (along with 26 Democrats) voted to add language that required reporting to ICE when undocumented immigrants attempt to purchase firearms—an attack on immigrants that won’t do anything to keep our communities safe.
  2. As part of the historic resolution to end US support for the unauthorized war in Yemen, House Republicans introduced a motion to recommit with language irrelevant to the underlying bill about confronting anti-Semitism. While Democrats of course supported the substance of this motion and thus unanimously adopted it, it had the effect of stripping the resolution of its special privileged status and causing an unnecessary roadblock that will require an extra House floor vote to fix, which may obstruct the resolution’s final success.

What can you do?

Write to our Democrats in the House and tell them to oppose all MTRs, because they are offered in bad faith to derail the underlying bills. There is contact information at the bottom of this page.

These MTRs are brought to the floor solely to help Republican candidates run attack ads in future elections, and Democrats who vote for a Republican MTR are only granting them cover. They just want to be able to run an ad that says, “Your Democratic Member of Congress voted for/against X,” even though the underlying bill had nothing to do with whatever the ad is about.


PayGo is a budget rule that blocks any new spending unless it is “paid for” at the same time by reducing spending elsewhere or raising taxes. This effectively prohibits bold, progressive legislation that would deliver resources to those who need it most. Especially during a pandemic and economic crisis, it is crucial for the government to spend public funds to address problems collectively.

What Republicans did

When Republicans took the House in 2011, it was their turn to write the rules package. One of the first things they did was to eliminate PayGo, because it would have prevented them from passing the massive tax cuts for the rich and big corporations that they wanted so badly. So much for “fiscal responsibility”.

What Democrats did

When Nancy Pelosi regained the speaker’s gavel in 2018, she insisted on bringing the PayGo rule back over the objections of progressives in the House. This did not magically make Republicans stop whining about the deficit or inspire a bipartisan consensus on raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for important public programs. Now, Democrats have an opportunity to correct this mistake and eliminate PayGo.

What can you do?

Negotiations have already begun over the rules package that will be voted on in early January. Now is the opportunity for progressives to make their voices heard and demand that the House remove arbitrary limits on their own ability to pass good policy.

Contact our House representatives and tell them they should prioritize working with President Biden to pass the boldest possible legislation, which means they should not be constrained by the needless PayGo rule, or by allowing the Republican minority to keep using bad faith MTRs to undermine Democratic bills.

Contact Information

  1. We don’t yet know the type of partner that incoming Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R) will be. However, we should give him a chance to act in good faith and represent everyone in the district, not just those who voted for him. In the interim, consider contacting the closest Democratic representative in our area, Rep. Gwen Moore.
  2. Then, contact House Leadership here.

If you do reach out to anyone, please let us know so that we can track your contact.

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