I’d been wondering whether they might do this, but two days ago WaPo posted this procedural explainer shooting down the idea. Yes, it’s true that whether the House votes on a bill is almost entirely up to the Speaker. And yes, it’s also true that the minority can force the Speaker to call a vote if it files a “discharge petition” signed by 218 House members. Couldn’t Pelosi try something like that, knowing that there are lots of centrist Republicans who might be willing to join her? Nope, said WaPo: As it turns out, it takes a solid month after a discharge petition is filed before it comes to the floor. The earliest they could vote would be November, by which time the shutdown will have long since ended. (I think.)
But wait — what if there’s a discharge petition that’s already on the calendar? Dude?
The bill in question is the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act,” which was introduced in March by GOP Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma. As the Congressman’s release describes it:
“If Congress fails to approve a budget by the end of each fiscal year, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would ensure that all operations remain running normally without any interruption of services by automatically triggering a continuing resolution (CR) or short-term, stop-gap spending device. The bill creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, auto-CR funding would be reduced by one percentage point and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days.”
This afternoon, Dem Reps. Chris Van Hollen and George Miller will announce that they are introducing a discharge petition for the Lankford bill. They will discuss the procedural ins and outs of this move. The upshot: Once the petition is filed, they will begin rounding up signatures from both Democrats and Republicans. If they can get 218 signatures, a House vote to reopen the government will happen.
Dems say that if they get enough signatures, they’d be able to force a vote by October 14th.
October 14th is just three days before the debt-ceiling deadline. Question: Even if there are, say, 30 centrist GOPers who say they want a clean CR, how many of them are actually willing to vote for one? And of that number, how many are willing to sign a discharge petition being organized by conservative bete noire Nancy Pelosi to make it happen? And of that number, how many are willing to end the shutdown just 72 hours before we hit the debt limit, thereby signaling that Boehner’s lost control of his caucus and destroying whatever’s left of his negotiating leverage with the White House? What Pelosi has going for her here is that the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” was introduced by a Republican, which might give GOP centrists a smidge extra political cover in backing it, and the fact that if the shutdown persists another 10 days, some of those centrists might be so panicked about the backlash back home that they really might consider a discharge petition. But, if the backlash is that severe, then Boehner himself will be looking for an exit by that point and the moderates can just hang with him for the final leadership-approved cave. Why let Pelosi take all the credit for ending a shutdown that the public dislikes when Boehner could do it himself?
He’s promising, by the way, to force Obama to negotiate over the debt ceiling — while also promising that, er, he won’t allow the country to default. I’m curious to see what negotiations look like when one party has acknowledged in advance that they won’t use their key leverage:
Following press reports that he is considering passing a debt ceiling bill with the help of Democratic votes, Speaker John Boehner assured his colleagues in a closed-door meeting that his insistence the government will not default doesn’t mean he won’t fight for spending cuts and other reforms in the bill that raises the debt ceiling.
“We are not going to default on the U.S. debt. We never have, we never will. If anybody defaults it’ll be the president who doesn’t write the check. But the speaker was very clear today that, while we’re not going to default, but there will be a negotiation. Even though the president says there will not be, there will be,” said Representative Phil Roe of Tennessee.
Boehner argued “the media is wrong,” said Representative John Fleming of Lousiana, and that Boehner’s insistence that the government will not default on its debts “shouldn’t be misconstrued as saying we’re not going to challenge Democrats in that debate.”
As a follow-up to my post earlier wondering where this all ends, read Robert Costa’s new one about which way the House GOP is tilting. A little of this, a little of that: They’re apparently going to ask for the medical-device tax to be repealed, as a token concession to whittling away at ObamaCare; some form of entitlement reform, possibly involving chained CPI and means-testing Medicare; and a “short-term mechanism” on tax reform that would point the two parties towards a bigger deal later. O won’t agree to all of that but he might agree to enough that’ll let Boehner save face sufficiently to get a majority of Republicans. It’s either that or the discharge petition — and if Obama’s gambling the debt ceiling on moderate Republicans’ willingness to vote with Pelosi, he’s gambling a lot.