‘Motion to recommit’ meaning explained: Did Build Back Better pass?

Bruno Cooke November 19, 2021
‘Motion to recommit’ meaning explained: Did Build Back Better pass?
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, delivered a monologue lasting more than eight hours yesterday during which he criticised Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending package, otherwise known as the Build Back Better Act. This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to vote “no” to a “motion to recommit” – what is a motion to recommit in Congress, what does it mean for the Build Back Better Act, and what is the house voting on right now?

‘Motion to recommit’ meaning explained

A motion to recommit gives the House a further opportunity to debate and amend a measure. 

There are two types of motion to recommit under the Rules of the House. The first, “with instructions”, does not delay or kill the bill. Rather, it requests a specific amendment, or change, “with instructions to report back forthwith”.

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The second is “without instructions”. If adopted, it sends the bill in question back to committee without a final vote on its passage. 

“In other words,” writes former representative Louise Slaughter, “the House has said, ‘send it back to the committee from whence it came.  We don’t want it as it is.’”

What would a motion to recommit mean for the Build Back Better Act?

In recent weeks, Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion infrastructure bill has come closer and closer to affirmation.

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Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democrats have passed it; the Senate passed it in mid-August, although Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona have both objected to certain provisions. Biden himself signed it into law on November 16. 

Its passage in Congress is almost the last hurdle. In this context, therefore, if the members of the House were to vote “yes” to a motion to recommit, they would send Build Back Better back to the committee level, which would take time.

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What is the House voting on right now?

If the House votes to recommit it – or, “re-committee” it – without instructions, it would likely cause unpredictable delays in its passage.

If they vote to recommit it with instructions, it might cause less of a delay. However, the New York Post writes that the motion is “expected to fail”. 

If the recommitment motion, on which House representatives are voting today, does not pass, then a final vote on the passage of the Build Back Better Act will follow.

EDIT: The House has since passed Biden’s Build Back Better bill, sending it to the Senate for approval.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.