House Democrats

How Democrats Could Use Rare Tactic To Force House Votes

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are vowing to use a long-shot tactic to force votes on immigration reform and minimum wage increases.

By John O'Connor | February 17, 2014

In a "House of Cards"-esque move, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are vowing to use a rare, long-shot tactic to force a vote on immigration reform and federal minimum wage increases. 

Democrats want to circumvent the House's GOP-led leadership using an old procedural tactic known as a discharge petition. The maneuver would allow Democrats to bypass the House Committee approval process and bring a measure directly to the floor for a vote. (Via CNN)

The rarely-used move was brought up last week by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who wrote: "[Immigration reform] Supporters should be thinking about a discharge petition ... If a majority of House members signed it, there could be a successful vote for the immigration bill the Senate already passed."

But it didn't really catch traction until New York Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the architects of that Senate-passed bill, sent a statement to Politico Friday voicing his support for the petition. (Via Al Jazeera)

“It’s clear a majority of the House supports immigration reform. A minority faction has scared Republicans out of acting even though large parts of the Republican base ... support the bill, making a discharge petition an appropriate remedy.”

And now the House's top-ranking Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, says she and fellow chamber Democrats will push the issue when Congress returns from its current recess. (Via C-SPAN)

However, Fox News explains the discharge petition is rarely used for a reason — because it rarely works. 

The only two known instances of it ever working was "in 1986, forcing a vote on a gun rights bill, and in 2002, ensuring a vote on campaign finance legislation."

While The New York Times reports in this particular instance, "Even if all House Democrats supported the measure, it would still require more than a dozen Republican signatures ... Lawmakers and aides in both parties say that ... is unlikely."

But another columnist for The Washington Post says forcing a vote likely isn't the end-game for Democrats. Rather, the idea is to apply pressure to Republicans ahead of midterm elections to keep the legislative process moving on issues like immigration and federal wages. 

" ... those feeling more heat from [constituents] pressuring them to sign [the petitions] might now have more incentive to go to the GOP leadership and say they’re getting killed and want the GOP to move forward somehow, even with its piecemeal proposals."

Democrats plan to push the discharge petition plan into motion when Congress returns from its holiday recess Feb. 24th. 

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