Op-ed: Pelosi-engineered rule change protects speaker from party’s radical left

June 23, 2019

While many political pundits suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is being held hostage by the new radical left wing of the Democratic Party, former Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz thinks the House majority leader may be here to stay until at least 2021.

He explained as much in a Fox News op-ed that was published on Saturday.

Pelosi power grab

Sure, Pelosi may yet cave to the demands of the far left by introducing impeachment proceedings against President Trump, but not out of self-preservation. Thanks to a “little-noticed” rule change introduced by the Pelosi-led 116th Congress this year, it just became next to impossible for Democrats to oust the House Speaker mid-session.

Chaffetz, who now works as a Fox News analyst, explained how Pelosi “took proactive steps to insulate herself from the demands of her base.” And the Democrat Party let it happen, voting unanimously to radically change the threshold required to pass a Motion to Vacate.

The ex-congressman described the process before Pelosi introduced changes:

The Motion to Vacate is the process used to replace a Speaker of the House in mid-session. It works like this: the majority party introduces the motion to vacate, which declares the office of speaker vacant and forces a new vote. This is a privileged motion, meaning anyone can offer it. If a majority of the whole body supports the motion, it passes. That means a minority of the majority plus the minority party can combine to oust a speaker.

Digging in for the long haul

Under the previous rules, a single caucus from within the majority party had the power to unseat the Speaker. Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner was forced to resign after North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows merely threatened to introduce a Motion to Vacate.

Now, however, a majority of the majority party must pass a Motion to Vacate before the entire House is allowed to vote on the measure.

“That is a much higher threshold and nearly impossible to achieve,” Chaffetz wrote. “What was once a tool of the minority (not the House minority, but the minority of the majority) has been eliminated.”

What does the new rules package mean in terms of policy? Chaffetz believes that Pelosi can continue to ignore demands from the far left to impeach Trump, so long as “moderate voters in swing districts” aren’t demanding this action.

No matter how she performs, Pelosi has effectively positioned herself to lead House Democrats until the 117th Congress convenes in January 2021. Chaffetz lamented this “elimination of a check on power,” adding that raising the threshold is “not good for the country.”

The point of a gun

However, the former Utah congressman sees a silver lining in Pelosi’s power grab. He predicted that, with Pelosi firmly in place, the GOP could ride the “anti-Pelosi sentiment” to an overwhelming victory in the next House elections.

“It may also be good for the president’s 2020 prospects as it leaves little flexibility for Democrats if they once again see Pelosi driving their party over an electoral cliff,” argued Chaffetz. “If there’s one bet you can never lose, it’s predicting that Nancy Pelosi will overreach.”

Indeed, Republicans in 2010 used Pelosi’s failed policy prescriptions to retake the House in dominating fashion. The Democratic Party platform was so poorly marketed that the Tea Party movement was born to offer a legitimate alternative.

Therefore, if Pelosi decides to pursue impeachment — or any other extreme proposal championed by the left — she isn’t doing so at the point of a gun.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.