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Congress-ese: MTR — The "Hail Mary" of Congress

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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September 8, 2008

Our legislative term of the day is motion to recommit. Just what exactly is it you ask? Well, to put it simply, the motion to recommit is a representative or senator’s last, best hope to change or kill a bill.

A motion to recommit is made on the floor of either the House or Senate after a bill has been debated, but before a final vote, to return the bill to the committee that it came from. If approved, motions to recommit usually spell the end of the bill. It is typically used by the minority party to either seek changes to or prevent the underlying legislation from passing. Think of it as a “Hail Mary” pass in football. Sometimes it works, but not usually.

Just like every other legislative term we have explored, motions to recommit can used for both good and not-so-good purposes. Last year for example, the ACLU added a vote on a motion to recommit to our congressional scorecard. The issue dealt with the desire of some lawmakers to allow providers of Head Start to discriminate in their hiring on the basis of religion. Had the motion to recommit been adopted, language would have been inserted into the Head Start legislation to allow such discrimination to take place. As is typically the case, however, this “Hail Mary” for religious discrimination failed.