House majorities are famous for taking what's known as "messaging votes" on bills that stand no chance of becoming law because they either can't clear the Senate or will ultimately get vetoed—or both.
The idea for the majority party is to use the votes as a way of signaling to voters all the important and popular policies they would prioritize if they had greater control of the government. Importantly, those votes are also designed to work to the advantage of the most vulnerable members of their caucus. In other words, the majority’s messaging bills boost its members’ reelection chances and, therefore, the prospect of maintaining the majority.
Unless, of course, the majority is held by an anti-democratic party living in a fantasy bubble where its members believe their deeply unpopular beliefs should rule the masses regardless of what the masses want. In other words, those messaging bills help the majority’s incumbents unless you're in the Republican Party—then your leaders schedule a bunch of messaging votes that Democrats can weaponize against you.
That's exactly the bind that more than a dozen vulnerable Republicans in Democratic-leaning swing districts find themselves in as whiz-bang Speaker Mike Johnson pushes through a series of spending measures that include everything from slashing critical programs to banning mail-order abortion pills.
The political malpractice is so glaring that Democrats can hardly believe their good fortune.
“It’s just very puzzling to us that they continue to put their members in positions to support these terrible cuts that are not going to become law,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar of California told Politico.
House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Democrats' super PAC, is already packaging up the GOP presents and deploying them in the home districts of Republicans they hope to unseat.
One of those members, Rep. Mike Garcia of California, who sits in a district that favored Joe Biden by 12.4 percentage points in 2020, may come to regret voting in favor of Johnson's funding cuts. Democrats have already sent mailers out claiming that “no family is safe from" the cuts Garcia approved.
“These mailers are going out — and these hit ads are going out — based on a first negotiation position,” Garcia told Politico, “which is probably more conservative than what we’re going to end up with.”
Garcia is correct. Republicans' extreme funding cuts, which are dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate, will surely be rolled back over the course of negotiations. But House Republicans wanted to send out a message highlighting their wildly unpopular agenda and Democrats are simply helping them do it.
Here are the issues where Democrats are looking to gain an advantage:
Schools: House Majority Forward suggests GOP spending reductions at the Department of Education could cut loose some 108,000 teachers and aides across the country.
Abortion: A Republican spending bill for the FDA and Department of Agriculture includes a rider banning mail-order abortion pills nationwide. The rider, which is still a work in progress, is highly contentious within the Republican caucus, so just imagine how much damage it could do with everyday voters.
Defunding the police, Republican style: Current GOP spending levels would slash the FBI budget by more than 9% (roughly $1 billion) and the Justice Department budget by more than 6%. President Joe Biden claims the cuts, left unchecked, would result in a net loss of some 30,000 law enforcement officers at the FBI, DEA, and elsewhere.
Amtrak cuts: Even House Republicans who hail from the Northeast are freaked out over their party proposing to cut upward of $1 billion in federal subsidies to Amtrak—a staple mode of transportation in the region.
"Without question" is what Democratic Rep. Rose DeLauro of Connecticut, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, answered when asked whether her party planned to use the massive railroad cuts against Republicans.
“Because how do you deal with a 67 percent cut to Amtrak?” said DeLauro. “Our votes are public, as they should be. And the public needs to know what harm these bills are doing to them.”
Republicans are sending a message all right—one that Democrats are happy to spread.