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Why does Congress introduce bills never meant to become law? Behind 'messaging' bills

Daniel Desrochers, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Last month, Rep. Sharice Davids voted against a bill called the “Equal Representation Act.”

The bill — which would make the Census Bureau determine the citizenship of each person it counted and exclude noncitizens from determining the number of people in a congressional district — had little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Joe Biden threatened to veto it, saying the provision would violate the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Still, Republicans in the House held the vote. No Democrats supported it. And the National Republican Congressional Committee blasted Davids for her vote, claiming she was putting “noncitizens ahead of citizens.”

The bill was an example of a so-called messaging bill: a piece of legislation that has little chance of becoming law but helps further a political message.

Republicans propose them. Democrats propose them.

There are messaging bills pushed by single lawmakers (eg. Missouri Rep. Eric Burlison’s bill to repeal the American Firearms Act) and messaging bills pushed by party leadership (The “Hands Off Our Appliances Act”). They’re introduced in the House. They’re introduced in the Senate.

 

“A lot of these messaging bills, the folks introducing them genuinely want them to become law,” said Casey Burgat, a political science professor at George Washington University. “But my defining feature is that they are introduced with the complete understanding that they will never become law. The message is the point. They’re trying to foster a conversation.”

It’s likely messaging bills will start to take up even more of Congress’ time. With the approach of November’s election, lawmakers are often reluctant to sign on to large, bipartisan pieces of legislation that could draw criticism from their opponents. Instead, with an eye on November, Senate and House leaders will likely hold more votes on political issues.

Democrats are trying to win control of the House of Representatives, maintain control of the White House amid troubling polls for Biden and protect Democratic Senate seats in states that voted overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump – like Sen. Jon Tester in Montana and Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

In the Senate, Democratic leadership is attempting to protect those from taking votes that could isolate any potential voters ahead of Election Day — while putting Republican lawmakers on the record on issues where they think Republicans are out of touch.

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©2024 The Kansas City Star. Visit at kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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