WASHINGTON -- House Democrats announced Friday that they will try to force the House to vote on a measure to fully fund the government -- and end the shutdown -- with a procedural motion known as a discharge petition.
Democrats unveiled their plan at a Friday afternoon press conference. Their resolution would fund the government through Nov. 15 at the same levels as the Senate-passed continuing resolution. And, like the Senate bill, there would be no strings attached related to delaying or defunding Obamacare.
The effort, led by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), has little chance of succeeding. The process can be time-consuming and it requires members of the majority party -- in this case, Republicans -- to buck their party leaders and sign a petition with the minority to force a bill to the floor. But it's one of the few things Democrats can do as the minority to try to force action.
If all 200 Democrats sign the petition, 18 Republicans would have to join them in order to hit 218 signatures, the magic number needed to move forward with the petition. Democrats already know there are at least 21 Republicans who would support a "clean" government funding bill, with no strings attached. But declaring support for such a bill and signing a petition to force it to the House floor, against the will of House GOP leaders, are two entirely different things.
During Friday's press event, Miller exuded confidence about Democrats' ability to round up the votes.
"We expect we can get them all in one day," he said.
But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), also at the event, acknowledged what may keep Republicans from signing on: fear of retribution from the tea party, namely in the form of a primary challenger in the 2014 elections.
"I think the fear factor on the Republican side is very high," Hoyer said. "I have very good relationships with most of the Republican side of the aisle ... They tell me that their guys are being threatened if they do anything like [supporting a clean funding bill]."
Under the Democrats' plan, the soonest they could force a vote on a clean government funding bill is Oct. 14. The first step of the process involves filing their resolution now, on Oct. 4, and having it referred to the House Rules Committee. Democrats then have to wait for seven days of inaction by the committee before they can do anything else. That brings them to Oct. 11.
Assuming the committee doesn't take up their resolution, Democrats will file their discharge petition and start collecting signatures. Once they hit 218, if they do, they can make a motion on the House floor to "discharge" their resolution from the committee for immediate House consideration. The earliest that could happen is Oct. 14.
From there, the House would have to take an up-or-down vote on the resolution. Assuming it passes with the support of everyone who signed the discharge petition, and possibly some others, the resolution would head to the Senate, where it would sail to passage and head to President Barack Obama's desk to become law, ending the shutdown.