In recent US history, our most powerful politicians have sparked some serious House Judiciary Committee hearings. I’m watching you Donald Trump, the President. Donald Trump.
My guess is that the majority of citizens aren’t glued to these hearings. Impeachment hearings of presidents nevertheless, spark excitement. When Members of the House Judiciary Committee say “I move to strike the last word!” the hearings can cause confusion.
In essence, it is “I want to speak and keep the discussion going.”
What Does “I Move to Strike the Last Word” Mean?
In the typical fashion of politics, “I move to strike the last word” does not refer to what it appears to mean. Nobody is asking to strike the “last word,” or any other term.
The person making the claim uses a phrase from the parliament to signal their desire to speak and also extend the limit of five minutes for discussing an issue.
Plainly stated, “I move to strike the last word” is “I want time to talk about this further.”
What Does Saying “I Move to Strike the Last Word” Do?
In a report entitled “Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology,” the Congressional Research Service explains that the House member who proposes an amendment is given five minutes to explain the amendment.
If a member wishes to oppose the amendment, they are allowed five minutes make their opposition.
If the members want to prolong discussions on the subject they may use pro modificare modifications that “strike” one or more phrases from the text, thus making amending “incomplete.”
The suggestion of striking, however, isn’t a literal suggestion. Nobody is actively seeking to remove or take words out of the text. They would like to have more time to talk about the root of the matter.
In an article that examines the “I move to strike the last word” statement, Noreen O’Donnell quotes Bill Shcute who is the temporary director at the Washington Center of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas. The statement is described by him to be “an old trick to allow members a chance to speak for five minutes additional.”
What Is a Pro Forma Amendment?
“I move to strike the last word” is an example of a pro forma amendment. What does it mean?
To recap, we know that the guidelines of the congressional procedure give a member five minutes to present the amendment. If a member who is opposed is standing and declares “I rise in opposition to the amendment,” they are given five minutes to explain their position.
This is only 10 minutes of discussion. Anyone who’s watched those House Judiciary Committee hearings knows they ran for more than 10 minutes. How? By using a loophole that is more commonly known as the pro modificare.
The Congressional Institute’s Congressional Glossary defines Pro Forma Amendments Pro Forma Amendment this way:
The Pro forma amendment “I move to strike the last word,” is as if the phrase “Open Sesame,” or “Abracadabra!”
It gives speakers the opportunity to talk for longer.
The House Judiciary Committee Debate
On the 12th of December in 2019 on December 12, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee debated two impeachment articles on behalf of president Donald Trump for 14 hours! Thanks for the strength of “I move to strike the last word.”
The phrase became a kind of joke with journalists such as Noreen O’Donnell who wrote her article “If ‘Strike the Last Word’ Was an Impeachment Drinking Game, No One Would Survive.”
Other media outlets have produced video clips of House members who use the phrase over and over again.
For the politicians “I move to strike the last word” is a custom. While the rest people might view this practice as an act of deceit, loophole or a technicality, for politicians, it’s an integral part of the system.
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