House Democrats To Attempt Discharge Petition On “Clean” CR

Democrats in the House will attempt to use an obscure House procedure to force an end to the government shutdown. It's success is by no means guaranteed.

Capitol Buidling Dayime2

With the Federal Government shutdown in its fourth day and little sign that anything is going to be resolved any time soon, both sides seem to be engaging in strategies designed to force the issue and force a resolution. House Republicans are hoping to force Democrats to the table to sending them a series of smaller appropriations bill targeted at things like the Park Service, the Capitol Police, and the National Institutes of Health. The President and Senate Democrats are standing firm on their “no negotiations” position. Now, the House Democrats are trying to get their own maneuver in by utilizing one of the few House Rules that allows a minority to try to force a matter to a vote:

House Democrats are moving ahead with a plan to discharge a GOP bill that automatically funds the government, advancing a course that could eventually end the government shutdown — if enough Republicans cooperate.

Democrats announced Friday afternoon that they would file a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., that has been waiting for action by the Appropriations Committee since March.

As CQ Roll Call reported Friday, Republicans have had a long history with the plan; many in the GOP have endorsed the idea over the years, including former Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Reps Paul D. Ryan and Jeb Hensarling.

The discharge petition would not simply adopt the Lankford bill, which would give 100 percent funding for 120 days before exacting a 1 percent cut every 90 days if the government does not produce funding bills.

Instead, the discharge petition would offer language to substitute Lankford’s bill with a clean CR to Nov. 15. Democrats think they have the votes for the plan.

“We’ve had some conversations,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who is heading up the plan with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Miller said they have spoken to “a range of Republicans” who they feel could support the plan, and believe they could sign them up in a day after a week for the petition to ripen.

“So this discharge petition gives them the opportunity to do that,” Miller said. “They’re obviously not happy with the current plan. You can burn a lot of fingers here when you mindlessly shutdown the government.”

Democrats will bring around the discharge petition over the next seven days. Because Lankford introduced the bill in March, it has already ripened in an initial stage of the discharge process.

Democrats said it could lead to a House vote by Oct. 14, though even if it were to get through the chamber, it would be subject to filibusters in the Senate. Republicans, however, disputed that timeline. A GOP aide said it would likely be weeks before the petition would be privileged on the floor, and even then, it can only be called up on the second and fourth Mondays of the month.

In order to be successful, the Democrats would be required to get 218 signatures on a Discharge Petition, meaning they’d need about 20 Republicans to sign on along with every single member of the Democratic Caucus. In theory, this would seem to be possible since, depending on whose count you accept, some 20-22 “moderate” Republicans have announced their support for a “clean” Continuing Resolution if it were brought to the floor. So, easy as pie, right? Well, not exactly. There’s a huge difference between these members announcing that they’d support a “clean” CR if it made it to the floor and convincing them to sign on to a Discharge Petition that would be a rebuke to the GOP Leadership and, especially, Speaker Boehner. Unlike the Tea Party Caucus, these are people who have served in the House alongside Boehner for years and many of them consider him an ally. Crossing the line to support a petition that goes against him so directly would likely be difficult for many of them, especially if he intervened to ask them not to do it. Without the support of those 20 Republicans, the Discharge Petition would fail.

The other complication in the Democratic plan as well. Even if they do get the required number of signatures on the Discharge Petition, House Rules only allow such matters to come to the floor without the consent of the Speaker on two days in every months. One of those days in October occurs shortly after Columbus Day, the other occurs just shortly before the end of the month. After that, assuming the matter passes the House, it goes to the Senate where it will be subject to the same requirements about Cloture Votes and talking filibuster that any other bill in the Senate would face. So, counting on a Discharge Petition to solve this crisis doesn’t at all mean a quick end to the shutdown. Indeed, it has the potential to actually extend it since it would likely result in both sides digging in their heels rather than trying to find a way out of this mess.

Perhaps this move will be just what’s needed to bring about a resolution of at least the government shutdown side of this crisis, but it’s not going to be a quick resolution and there’s no guarantee that it will succeed. So, stay tuned.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    My comment in the Sane Republicans Trying to Take Back Party seems tailor-made for this thread:

    “If they were trying to take the party back, they could do so very quickly, as the numbers are there for a clean CR to pass right now. They are just too scared of being primaried (i.e., that they won’t be able to take the party back) to do so.

    Or as Leon Panetta said during the Clinton Administration’s battles with Congressional Republicans, “If your plan requires moderate Republicans, you need another plan.””

  2. john personna says:

    It sounds like filing the petition is due diligence, even if an unlikely path.

  3. Mikey says:

    Crazy idea: Boehner shows up and supports the discharge petition.

    Could it happen?

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I see this as just another way to apply political pressure, optics, rather than a serious attempt at resolving this.

  5. Scott says:

    I don’t see a downside. Either the Demo succeed and we get a CR passed. Or they fail and the Republicans bear the full responsibility for the shutdown.

    It won’t solve the Debt Limit issue thought.

  6. David M says:

    If it drags on long enough, it’s one more way to put pressure on the GOP reps & Boehner to do the right thing and hold a vote. Enough “moderate” GOP members have publicly said they will support a clean CR for it to pass, so we’ll see if that was just talk.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    At least the adults are trying to fix the problem.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    A similar tactic was tried and failed on Wednesday, through a “previous question” vote, which is a procedural move that would have allowed a vote on the Senate clean-funding bill if enough Republicans joined with the Democrats. The Democrats got zero Republican votes. Link.

  9. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    True, which is why anything that puts more public pressure on the GOP members of the House is a good thing.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @David M:

    Enough “moderate” GOP members have publicly said they will support a clean CR for it to pass, so we’ll see if that was just talk.

    I don’t think any of them have said it publicly. Every report I have read talks of “private conversations” and none of them name names.

  11. john personna says:

    Highly recommended:

    Understanding the Game Being Played in Washington
    by Justin Fox

    Put all this together, and it looks like we have the makings of a train wreck. It also looks like it’s probably up to Boehner to avert it, which he appears to acknowledge. But that’s not as reassuring as it might sound when you consider how unstable the tactical ground is upon which he stands. So, that’s depressing.

  12. David M says:
  13. PD Shaw says:

    @David M: How does it put pressure on the GOP when nobody understood what’s already happened? Procedural votes are for political squares.

  14. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I meant the discharge petition would probably put more pressure on the GOP than the procedural vote. It’s a little easier to understand.

  15. jib10 says:

    Run the numbers. There are, at most, 80 repubs who are hardcore about not approving the CR. There are 24 repubs who have publicly stated they will vote for the CR. And in the middle, 128 repubs who want the shutdown to end and are happy for the CR to end it but dont want to be on the record as voting for it. (yeah, I know but hey, politicians are notorious cowards so what do you expect)

    The solution is for the house to vote on the CR where it will pass. The trick for Boehner is to do this but not cause so much of a backlash among the TP that he risks a major fight over the debt. So we have to go through this whole song and dance as the TP gets its rage over Obamacare out of its system.

    Discharge is just a fall back. Nice to get going but we wont need it. By the 14th the shutdown will be over and the debt limit raised.

    If I am wrong? Then the Discharge gets the govt back working and Obama issues the coin to fund the debt and we can all popcorn and the watch the repubs in the house try to impeach Obama.

    I wonder if they will vote on that as many times as they have voted to overturn Obamacare?

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @David M: OK, thanx. I actually had heard of Peter King saying that and maybe one or 2 others.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    @jib10: There are no such numbers. The media is over-reading statements that if parsed closely are ambiguous at best. There are words and there are actions. All of the Republicans voted against bringing up a “clean” bill for a vote on Wednesday. Actions speak louder than words.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    Cruz is now saying that the Republicans have ALREADY compromised: they wanted a total repeal of Obamacare, but they’ll settle for it not being funded.

    I’m not joking.

    I want to see the Democratic Party should use that exact same argument the next time a vote on funding any military hardware comes up.

  19. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think you may have heard King said that he could expect maybe one or two votes in the Republican Presidential primary. (joking)

  20. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    The media is over-reading statements that if parsed closely are ambiguous at best. There are words and there are actions. All of the Republicans voted against bringing up a “clean” bill for a vote on Wednesday. Actions speak louder than words.

    I don’t disagree with this at all, but if the best course of action is refusing to pay a ransom for the 6 week CR or the debt ceiling, then things like this are one of the few options left.

  21. jib10 says:

    @PD Shaw: You right! So the best way to cut through all this bad media spin is to simply bring the clean CR to a vote on the house floor. Then the repubs can vote it down and there will be no question about where everyone stands.

    I wonder why they have not done that? Such a simple, clean way to cut through the media fog. What could go wrong?

  22. Woody says:

    No blessed way.

    Twenty Republicans, in this environment, to vote on a Democratic discharge petition spearheaded by Nancy Pelosi? Every one of them would have to switch to the Democratic Party for a scintilla’s chance of re-election.

    No, should we get to 17 October, it will be Speaker Boehner, along with selected allies, that will concede with dignity, all the while claiming credit for placing Nation over Party. I’m not a huge Boehner guy, but I believe he’d sacrifice his Speakership on this principle.

    Of course, it would place the Murdoch/talkradio folk into a bit of a pretzel. How to claim credit for Patriotism, yet not denigrate for Giving In to Obummer?

  23. Tony W says:

    I could see Boehner quietly supporting this idea. It gets the Tea Party off his back, keeping his speakership alive, while assuring the right thing is done – a clean CR.

  24. PD Shaw says:

    @jib10: All evidence to me points to moderate Republicans want something for raising the debt ceiling, just not repeal of Obama care, nor do they want a sharp stick in Obama’s eye.

  25. jib10 says:

    @Woody: I think some of them are going to switch parties anyway. Most of them are in moderate districts and they are only under threat in a primary. So switch to dems and run in the general against the TP candidate and keep their seat. Makes the primary threat go away.

  26. anjin-san says:

    One thing that is fascinating about this whole affair is watching Republicans discover that the government does a lot of things that are actually pretty important, and then making panicked attempts to fund them.

  27. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    All evidence to me points to moderate Republicans want something for raising the debt ceiling

    So even the moderate Republicans are threatening cause a financial catastrophe if we don’t meet their ransom demands?

  28. al-Ameda says:

    This is a good development, if for no other reason that it will put people on the record. Let’s see who favors good government, and find out which Republicans have the courage to defy de facto House leadership and give the government back to the people. Perhaps this goes nowhere – we’ll see. Again, it has to be done, we need take the steps necessary to prevent this hostile takeover of our government

    If it does work we can move directly to talking Republicans away from forcing a default, or the president may entertain serious consideration of a 14th Amendment option to prevent House Republicans from causing the default.

  29. PD Shaw says:

    “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” — John F. Kennedy

  30. john personna says:

    Businessweek, which I appreciate is a left-of-center business magazine, may still have been right about this:

    Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business

    Yes, compromise between parties (and what that means) is one bone of contention, but ongoing and parallel to that we have more of a rift in the GOP side than we have seen … forever?

    Many above presume that the “adults and moderates” will carry through to default. I don’t think so. I think the democrats can stand pat because they have a fair deal in the clean CR, and moderates will come to it. Especially as the specter of default weighs on business interests.

  31. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    All evidence to me points to moderate Republicans want something for raising the debt ceiling, just not repeal of Obama care, nor do they want a sharp stick in Obama’s eye.

    Well, if you think they are willing to default to get “something,” then they aren’t “moderate” by any reasonable definition.

  32. Todd says:

    @Woody:

    No, should we get to 17 October, it will be Speaker Boehner, along with selected allies, that will concede with dignity, all the while claiming credit for placing Nation over Party. I’m not a huge Boehner guy, but I believe he’d sacrifice his Speakership on this principle.

    I agree with this.

    At this point, I almost think that passing just the CR might actually be a bad thing … as it puts us right back into the same hostage situation, just with the debt ceiling instead.

    Boehner is going to have to allow a vote that will need Democrats to pass. One such vote will be hard enough. Two might be impossible.

    … and if we only get one chance, I’d much rather see the debt ceiling raised, even if it means the government stays shut down for weeks instead of days.

  33. James Pearce says:

    This ploy won’t work. As Josh Marshall explains:

    I’m going to be keeping a tally of the number of House GOP moderates who’s pledged to support a discharge petition. We’ve tabulated, re-tabulated and checked the number several times. So far the official tally is: zero.