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House Democrats lose procedural vote to GOP minority for first time in months

Approval of Republican motion to recommit on Financial Services spending bill added a last-minute Iran amendment

 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the members of his caucus who voted for the GOP motion to recommit felt they had to support the Iran language. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the members of his caucus who voted for the GOP motion to recommit felt they had to support the Iran language. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Democratic majority on Wednesday lost a procedural vote to the Republican minority for the first time in four months, as 37 Democrats joined Republicans in adding a last-minute Iran amendment to the Financial Services spending bill.

The amendment was approved through a Republican motion to recommit, or MTR — a procedural tool of the minority used primarily for messaging.

Democrats lost two MTR votes to Republicans earlier this year but had soundly defeated all such motions since their last MTR loss in late February on a gun control bill.

Wednesday’s MTR, approved 226-195, added language to Democrats’ fiscal 2020 Financial Services appropriations bill to increase funding for the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence by $10 million to support enforcement of Iran sanctions. 

The 37 Democrats who voted for it were primarily moderate members of the caucus, many of whom are considered vulnerable for re-election in 2020.

Three Republicans voted against their party’s MTR: Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Don Young of Alaska.

Despite winning the MTR, every single Republican voted against the Financial Services bill, which passed 224-196.

Five Democrats also voted “no” on final passage: Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela of Texas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Ben McAdams of Utah and Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. 

The last MTR vote Democrats lost came February 27 on a measure to expand background checks on gun purchases. The Republican language that 26 Democrats helped approve to the bill would require the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to be notified if an undocumented immigrant tries to buy a gun. 

Their first MTR loss earlier in February was on a resolution to remove U.S. armed forces assisting the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. The MTR, adopted unanimously, added language asserting that “it is in the national security interest of the United States to combat anti-Semitism around the world.”

The majority does not get more than a few minutes heads up on what MTR language the minority will offer before members have to vote, making it difficult to whip against them. But after their first two losses, Democrats had sharpened their responses to the procedural motions, lining up members to prep passionate responses to the lines of attack they anticipated Republicans to make. 

Perhaps on Wednesday, Democratic leaders, who had been focused the previous few days on rallying their caucus around a supplemental border funding bill, weren’t as prepared. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said after the vote that the Democrats who voted for the MTR “believe that they could not vote against putting more money against terrorism, and so that’s understandable.”

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