How do you tell your constituents you opposed funding for repairing the crumbling roads and bridges in their district? Just as lawyers are advised to either argue the facts or law and if both fail, to pound on the table, House Republicans came up with a legislator’s equivalent of options: If you cannot defend your position with logic, defend it with powerful oratory; if you can’t defend it with powerful oratory, appeal to emotions; and, if none of those work, change the subject.
And that’s just what Republicans did during debate on the special rule. They changed the subject by urging their colleagues to defeat the previous question — the only opportunity for the minority to offer an amendment to a special rule — and vote for an amendment making in order the bill (H.R. 5071) introduced the previous day by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.).
The Gallagher bill is designed to ensure that no Americans are left behind in Afghanistan by directing the secretary of Defense to report daily to Congress on the status of American evacuations and by prohibiting the president from withdrawing U.S. troops until all Americans are safely extracted. The previous question was predictably adopted on a party-line 220-212 vote, thereby preventing a vote on considering the Gallagher bill.
Whether such an amendment was even germane to the rule was not the point. The tactic at least symbolically raised an urgent issue that Congress was ducking and an opportunity to influence administration Afghanistan policy during its brief return to Washington (the House will not return for regular business again until Sept. 20).