Skip to content

Waters Issues Warning To House Leadership

Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) warned her Democratic colleagues this week that she fears the party is headed down a slippery slope when it comes to the political maneuvering involved in handling Republican- offered motions to recommit.

In a “Dear Colleague” circulated Tuesday, Waters voiced her concern that leadership’s continued willingness to grant some Democrats a pass when voting on GOP-sponsored motions, in an effort to give them political cover, will only serve to fracture the Democratic Caucus.

“My concern is the members of my Caucus are siding with the Republicans far too often on policies which are designed to divide our Caucus and undermine our work,” Waters said in a brief interview Wednesday.

Waters’ letter also specifically called out House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), though not by name, and charged that he led an effort to have Democrats switch their votes from “no” to “yes” on a GOP motion to recommit attached to an international debt relief bill passed last month.

Emanuel aides insisted Wednesday that the Caucus chairman’s “yes” vote was a mistake and that he was in the Cloakroom making calls for most of the vote. He voted “yes” because he was under the mistaken impression that Democrats might accept the motion to recommit and saw that many Democrats were voting “yes” on the tally board.

“Chairman Emanuel was not organizing members in support of the motion to recommit,” said an Emanuel aide. “His vote in favor of the motion was a simple mistake.”

The GOP motion passed, although it was drafted hastily and later had to be corrected, and Waters chastised her colleagues for not consulting with the authors of the underlying bill before voting “yes” on the motion to recommit.

“I realize that this was only the most recent of many instances in which Members of the Democratic Caucus have voted for Republican motions to recommit,” Waters wrote. “However, as I watched Democratic leaders organize ‘yea’ votes on this motion, I was convinced that Democrats are traveling down a path of complicity on motions to recommit the likes of which we have never seen before. I cannot help but wonder if our Caucus will be torn apart by frequent support for Republican motions to recommit. I find myself wondering, ‘Where will this end?’”

Emanuel was the highest ranking of several members of Democratic leadership to vote “yes” on the motion. Democratic Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Chief Deputy Majority Whips Diana DeGette (Colo.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) all voted for it.

But the list of 97 Democrats who voted in favor of the measure largely reads like a list of GOP targets in the fall elections. Republicans have said they plan to use procedural motions — one of the few tools available to them in the minority — to put vulnerable Democrats on the spot and force them to make a choice between the interests of their constituents back home or supporting their leadership on something that could be used against them this fall.

Republicans were quick to point out that Waters, a Chief Deputy Majority Whip, has voted for six Republican motions to recommit this Congress.

“It is curious, to say the least, that Rep. Waters would object to her Democratic colleagues voting with Republicans to improve legislation after she did the same thing no less than six times last year,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Perhaps this sort of embarrassing situation is precisely why Democrats are breaking their promises in order to jam legislation through the House without proper debate this week.”

Waters said that a lot of Members have come up to her since she sent the letter, saying it’s about time somebody tried to put a stop to the practice. In her letter, Waters suggested the Democratic Caucus should discuss the matter as soon as possible.

Waters said Democrats should simply stop voting for the motions, saying that members have other ways of expressing their views on issues, including amendments, floor speeches and introducing bills.

“Your constituents don’t even understand (motions to recommit),” she said.

The motion to recommit in question was tied to the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation, which passed the House in mid-April. The vote on the jubilee act was timed to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Washington, D.C.

The Republican motion sought to prevent debt relief from going to countries that do business with Iran. But it did not account for a manager’s amendment that had already passed, and therefore those provisions were unnecessarily stripped out. The problem was later corrected by a unanimous consent request the week after the bill passed.

Recent Stories

House passes $95.3B aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

Senate sends surveillance reauthorization bill to Biden’s desk

Five races to watch in Pennsylvania primaries on Tuesday

‘You talk too much’— Congressional Hits and Misses

Senators seek changes to spy program reauthorization bill

Editor’s Note: Congress and the coalition-curious