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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, has released a series of localized TV ads attacking incumbent congressional Republicans as self-serving pols who opposed pay for U.S. troops.
One of the targeted incumbents is Jim Renacci, who faces another incumbent, Democrat Betty Sutton, in the newly drawn 16th Congressional District.
The ad aimed at him, narrated by a Northeast Ohio veteran of Operation Desert Storm, mingles black-and-white footage of combat troops with shots of Renacci.
"Renacci tried to skip out on paying over a million in taxes," the narrator says, "but opposed increasing combat bonuses for our troops.
"And when Congressman Renacci wants to place tax cuts for himself and his rich friends, and take away veterans services for those serving in country and out of country, I think it's an atrocity."
PolitiFact Ohio rated as True a claim from the Sutton camp about Renacci trying to avoid taxes. For this fact check, we’ll look at the claim that Renacci "opposed increasing combat bonuses for our troops."
The DCCC cites a vote in a footnote at the bottom of the screen in support of the claim, but that footnote doesn’t tell the whole story.
Not even close.
As our colleagues at PolitiFact Wisconsin noted, that vote -- and others cited by the DCCC in other ads -- come from spring 2011, when an extended partisan tussle over spending cuts brought the federal government close to a shutdown. One of the sticky issues was how to deal with congressional pay and military pay if a shutdown occurred. There was plenty of maneuvering for partisan advantage and both parties claimed they were on the side of the troops.
On May 26, 2011 -- after the funding crisis was averted with passage of a bill with military appropriations through the remainder of fiscal 2011 -- the House debated a defense authorization bill for the following year, 2012.
Democrats called for a vote on a motion to boost pay for combat troops.
U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California, called it transparently political: "We had all kinds of time to bring an amendment that would be helpful like this, then they bring this one. There's no offset. This would just put us again above the allocation from the chairman. This is really more Democrat increasing spending."
The motion failed, with Renacci in opposition.
What the DCCC ad doesn’t say is that the full bill -- supported by Renacci, nearly all Republicans and 95 Democrats, including Betty Sutton -- already included a pay hike of 1.6 percent in the monthly basic pay for members of the uniformed services. That covered combat troops as well.
So, Renacci didn’t vote for the additional bump proposed at the very end of the process, but he voted -- the same day -- for the increased pay level in the underlying bill.
Think of it this way: There is a bill to increase spending by $500,000 for a particular program. An amendment is offered to increase it to $750,000. If a person votes against the amendment but for the bill, are they "voting against an increase in spending" for the program?
We also note that the Democratic amendment in question, like the others cited by the DCCC, was a "motion to recommit," a prerogative of the minority party since the first Congress. They are motions, partly procedural, that attempt to send a bill back to committee just before passage.
"Both parties, when in the minority, have used these to make political statements and embarrass the majority for partisan advantage," said Donald Wolfensberger, an expert on parliamentary rules who was a key Republican staffer for the House Rules Committee in the 1990s. "It is well understood in modern times that these are designed for partisan campaign purposes and usually have little to do with better policy."
Both parties, when in the minority, contend the motions can have merit and are not purely procedural.
What is the merit of the Democratic TV ad charging that Renacci "opposed increasing combat bonuses for our troops"?
The claim is based on Renacci’s vote on a "motion to recommit" that preceded a final vote on military pay. Such motions are routinely denied by the majority party as procedural moves. That gives the minority party the chance to structure them for partisan advantage.
That’s what is playing out in the ad now.
On the Truth-O-Meter, the claim rates False.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "Jim Renacci: Earned," Oct. 17, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Democratic group says Duffy voted against pay increases for troops but in favor of protecting his own salary," Sept. 16, 2012
Email from the Renacci campaign, Oct. 18, 2012
Congressional roll call vote, House Vote #374 (On motion to recommit with instructions: H.R. 1540 to authorize appropriations), May 26, 2011
Congressional roll call vote, House Vote #375 (On passage of H.R. 1540: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012), May 26, 2011
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