Indivisible on Offense
Two years ago, we wrote the Indivisible Guide because we knew that everything we hold dear was under threat. We’ve lost a lot since then, but we resisted, built a big blue wave, and ultimately retook power in one chamber of Congress. Now, with control of the House, we will band together to save our democracy.
Picture this: It’s January 3, 2019 and your new members of Congress (MoCs) are being sworn into the 116th Congress. There are four ways that their work, and ours, is changing:
- We define what Congress works on. House Democrats now have agenda-setting power. That means they can choose what bills get a vote, but it doesn’t mean they can enact laws unilaterally.
- We go on legislative offense in the House. And with their new agenda-setting power, there are two big opportunities for Democrats to go on legislative offense in 2019 and 2020: messaging bills and must-pass bills.
- Oversight and investigation. Democrats will take control of committess and be able to shine a light on this administration through oversight and investigations (subpoena power, investigatory power, hearings, and more).
- We play original Indivisible Guide-style defense in the Senate. Republicans still control the Senate, and they’ll keep pushing Trump’s agenda. House Democrats will play a critical role in defending against further harm, but demanding that your Senators listen and keeping up the pressure in your home turf is critical.
Let’s take a deep dive into offense
First up on exploring our strategy? Let’s start with the first two pieces: what can the new Democratically-controlled Congress do on Day 1 with agenda-setting power and messaging bills.
What is agenda-setting power?
With control of both the Senate and the House for two years, Republicans were the only party with the power to decide what legislation came up for a vote. That gave them what we call “agenda-setting power”.
Now, Democrats have partial agenda-setting power. And with that, they have fun new tools available to them. They have the power to shape the national discussion, focusing attention from press and the public on preferred issues.
But agenda-setting power in the house doesn’t mean Democrats can actually get legislation into law. We have to understand the risks and limitations of this new state of play. Most important, of course, is that Democrats can’t unilaterally enact laws. We can safely assume that the vast majority of good legislation passed in the House will die in the Republican-controlled Senate. Plus, we would still need Donald Trump to sign any bill that clears Congress in order for it to become law.
Democrats will feel enormous pressure to “play ball” with Trump and cut bad deals in the interest of getting stuff done. It’s critical to remind the Democrats you sent to Washington that you didn’t send them to negotiate with Trump and his Republican enablers on his racist, xenophobic agenda. We didn’t build a wave to let Trump build a wall, after all. So, let’s not mince words: your work to stiffen Democrats’ spines is more important than ever.
What are messaging and must-pass bills?
Messaging bills are proposed by MoCs and have a minimal chance of being signed into law, but show what our politicians stand for. Messaging bills allow Democrats to present an alternative vision for the country, get Republicans on the record on key issues, and settle policy debates and define the party’s agenda. Most of messaging bills won’t become law, since they’re not going to pass the Senate. But that’s not necessarily the point — we’re in this for the long game (think: 2019, 2020, and beyond).
Must-pass bills are those
that … must pass.
Unlike the thousands of messaging bills that get introduced every year, there
are some bills that Congress has to pass every year. The most common of these
are government funding bills, which are needed to prevent a government
shutdown. But there will be other bills that must pass, like those extending
authorization for important programs.
Since Republicans still control the Senate, they need some Democratic votes to pass these bills, and each of the “must-pass bills” presents an opportunity for Democrats to extract important concessions in exchange for their votes, or to protect against more harm from Trump and Republicans hell-bent on doing his bidding.
None of this is automatic — we must demand Democratic MoCs push for messaging bills, organize around must-pass bills, and resist deal-making with Trums. And we must get Republican MoCs on the record about issues that matter.
This is where the second part of the Guides comes in. We take this road map and turn it into strategy. Here’s how we get ready for offense:
- Find your group. The key to the Indivisible movement is building strong, local groups. And if you haven’t found yours yet, do this first.
- Join our national activist call on December 6. Our organizing and policy teams will host our monthly national activist call next Thursday. They’ll discuss what legislation may be coming down the pike during the #First100Days and discuss our plans for the “Whose House? Our House!” national day of action on January 3.
- Get ready for January 3. Check out our organizing toolkit to find everything you need to plan for the day of action!
We’re excited to see your “Whose House? Our House!” events come together in the next few weeks (and we even have some merch to help you get ready!). Get prepared to take action on the first day of the 116th Congress!
The Indivisible Team