The Huffington Post has been keeping track of every House Republican who has publicly said they'd vote for a "clean" spending bill, without extraneous measures related to health care. As of now, it stands at 22 members. Add those 22 to the 200 House Democrats in the chamber, and you'd appear to have plenty of votes to pass the Senate bill and end the government shutdown.
So why don't House Republican leaders just bring the Senate bill to the floor? They don't want to -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), at the behest of his most far-right members, hopes to keep the government closed in the hopes Democrats will eventually give them what they want.
But what if the decision on what to bring to the floor was taken away from Boehner and the House GOP leadership?
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 sat waiting for action by the Appropriations Committee since March.
This gets a little tricky, but stick with me. The Lankford measure, which a lot of Republicans like, would fund the government for 120 days. If Congress failed to reach a budget agreement at the end of that period, instead of shutting down, the government would impose an automatic, across-the-board 1% spending cut. If, after 90 days, there was still no deal, there'd be another 1% cut. If another 90 days went by, it'd happen again. And so on, indefinitely.
Why would Democrats go for this? Well, they wouldn't. They'd use the Lankford bill as a vehicle, scoop out its contents, add the language from Senate bill (the clean CR that funds federal operations through Nov. 15, instead of Dec. 15), and bring that to the floor.
This plan is reportedly in motion, but it won't happen right away -- the discharge petition would be referred to the Rules Committee, where it would take seven days to "ripen." Democratic proponents could then begin gathering signatures, exactly one week from today. If they reach 218 signatures -- 200 Dems and 18 Republicans -- the bill would go to the floor, whether GOP leaders like it or not, but under procedural constraints, that could happen no sooner than Monday, Oct. 14.
This would obviously solve the problem. What's less clear is whether the plan, spearheaded by Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), will work.
The problem with discharge petitions has always been straightforward: they're seen as a betrayal of your party's leaders, the folks whose support you generally want and need.
It's why we don't see them all the time, and why not one has worked in the last 11 years.
In this sense, it's a major challenge for those allegedly moderate House Republicans. They saythey want to end the shutdown, and they claim to be unhappy with their party's extremists, but how committed are they to stopping this ongoing fiasco? Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), and others have to decide -- do they help end the shutdown or do they worry about making House Speaker John Boehner look bad?
For the GOP's centrists, it's put up or shut up time.
For Speaker Boehner, it's a leadership threat that could make him look even more politically impotent than he already does.