Majority of House Democrat Votes Are for Nonbinding Measures

Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats | Getty
April 4, 2019

The majority of votes taken by House Democrats in the past four legislative weeks have been nonbinding, according to a study conducted by Roll Call. About one in five votes have been nonbinding, meaning that these House resolutions don't pass new laws, but instead serve as large scale messaging.

House Democrats have passed nonbinding resolutions on issues such as calling for the full Mueller report, opposing President Donald Trump's ban on transgender troops in the military, opposing Trump's opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and condemning all forms of hate after repeated anti-Semitic statements from one of their own members, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.).

Democratic leadership has acknowledged that passing these measures is more intended to send signals of Democratic beliefs to the American people than it is to advance legislation into law.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said that the nonbinding resolutions are for "telling the American people what we believe and what we think ought to be done."

Other House Democrats echoed his words.

"It sends a message to the American public where we stand and how we honor one another as fellow citizens and making sure that everybody has the same rights as everyone else," said Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D., Ariz.).

O'Halleran said that it's "extremely important" that Democrats pass an even mix of nonbinding resolutions and actual bills, and, according to Roll Call, he believes they are doing that.

"I don't think it's cutting into our ability to address the key priorities of America," he said.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) called the nonbinding votes "the moral voice of the American people."

"That's particularly important in these times, with the president not being consistent with many basic American principles," he said. "So it's a separate branch of government saying, 'No, actually we want to tell you what we think America is all about.'"

DCCC ad campaigns have been using the nonbinding resolutions to bolster Democrats records on voting against the Trump administration, according to a report from Politico.

"While Republicans keep on attacking Americans' health care, Democrats voted to condemn this latest attempt to undermine protections for pre-existing conditions," DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter told Politico. "This targeted ad campaign will remind voters that Democrats stand on their side and will fight for them, while Republicans keep trying to raise premiums and take away protections from people with pre-existing conditions."