The Discharge Petition Strategy for Immigration Reform

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Last week, the “New Democrat” coalition of centrist conservadem lawmakers sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner
demanding that he bring an immigration bill to the House floor by the
end of September. If he doesn’t, they said, they will introduce their
own bill. Lawmakers Weigh Aggressive Tactic on Immigration:

That bill, or different variation on the sweeping immigration bill
passed by the Senate, could become the basis for an in-your-face tactic
known as a “discharge petition,” which aims to bring a piece of
legislation to the floor over the wishes of the people who run the
House.

“Once there is a House bill, if there is reluctance to bring it
forward and allow members to vote on it, then absolutely we’ll consider a
discharge petition,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D., Colo.), a co-chairman of the coalition’s immigration task force.

He said starting a petition could be an effective way to put more
pressure on Republican leaders, even if Democrats can’t gather the
necessary 218 signatures. The AFL-CIO is also considering support for
this step, calling it a “a very viable tool to force a vote” if
necessary.

But Democrats and immigration advocates are divided over whether to
employ the move in hopes of pressuring House Republicans on immigration,
or to continue pushing what they would like to be a bipartisan march to
the finish line.

House Republicans have said they plan to consider separate
immigration bills, but have yet to propose any legislation that would do
what advocates most want: give 11 million illegal immigrants living in
the U.S. the chance for citizenship
. Senior GOP leaders have said they
plan to introduce a bill aiding at least a sliver of that population,
but haven’t mapped a timetable.

That has prompted some Democrats and their allies to suggest
launching a “discharge petition.”
The technique is frequently attempted
but rarely successful, largely because success requires members of the
majority party to defy their leaders.

If nearly all the Democrats signed such a petition, pressure would be
intense on the 30 or 40 Republicans who agree with them
, said Frank Sharry,
executive director of America’s Voice, an advocacy group. “They (might)
feel pressured to go to Boehner and leadership and say, `You’re killing
us here. We’ve got to find a way to have a vote.’”

Other advocates are wary of trying, especially when a bipartisan
group of seven House members is still working to come up with a broad
bill
. “A discharge petition just opens up an accusation that the
Democrats are playing politics, and that isn’t helpful in terms of
sharpening and keeping the pressure on Republicans,” said Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the Democratic-leaning Center for American Politics.

A discharge petition could also highlight House Democrats’ internal
divisions, such as over the border security provisions in the Senate
bill.

Ahead of the August break, House Democratic leaders decided not to
introduce the Senate immigration bill in the House – a necessary
precursor to filing at discharge petition
, a senior House Democratic
aide said. Democratic leaders want to give the bipartisan group time to
finish their work, which they see as the best shot for the House to pass
a broad bill.

The last time lawmakers successfully used a discharge petition to
force a vote on the House floor was in January 2002 on a
campaign-finance overhaul. Between 1931, when the modern form of the
rule emerged, and 2002, lawmakers filed 563 discharge petitions. Just 26
were adopted by the House
, though some others reached the floor through
other procedures, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The GOP votes to pass the "Gang of Eight" Senate comprehehensive immigration reform bill are there in the House. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told The Washington Post that many House Republicans aren't trumpeting their support because they fear backlash from conservatives.

“Some of them I’ve spoken to, and they say, ‘Love to do the activity
with you, I want to be able to vote for it, I really don’t need to draw
attention to myself at this point,’ but we can count on it,” he said.

“If they asked me today, go find those 40 or 50 Republicans, I’d tell
them I found them,” Gutierrez said. “I know where they’re at. They’re
here. They’re present.”

What is holding up the comprehensive immigration reform bill is the "Hastert Rule," an extra-constitutional and undemocratic GOP caucus rule that requires a "majority of the majority" of the GOP caucus to bring a bill to the floor, rather than a majority of Congress which supports a bill. This allows a tyranny of a radical minority in Congress — led by the likes of nativist and racist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) — to  'filibuster" the will of the majority.

And it is only possible because the GOP leadership fears its Tea-Publican radicals who have threatened to replace them as leaders if they bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to the House floor for a vote.

A discharge petition is unlikely. I find it hard to believe that 40-50 Republicans, let alone the couple of dozen GOP signatures it would take for a discharge petition, are willing to defy their leadership and face certain punishment for signing the petition, and to face a radical teabagger opponent in their GOP primary for reelection. There are no "Profiles in Courage" in this Congress.

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