Nancy Pelosi threatened a discharge petition as a way to break up the “fiscal cliff” stalemate in Congress. Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, gave the option during talks on Friday, pointing out that the Senate has already passed a bill in July that would extend lower tax rates for the middle class and keep them high for the wealthy.
Pelosi called for the House Republican leadership to bring the bill to the floor next week, threatening to file a discharge petition if they don’t follow through, reports The Huffington Post.
A discharge petition is a petition filed by a party which, if it gains 218 signatures, will force the middle income tax cut bill to the floor for a vote. Pelosi stated:
“We believe that not [bringing the Senate bill to the floor] would be holding middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts for the rich which do not create jobs, just increase the deficit, heaping mountains of debt onto future generations. This is really very important.”
The bill, if it passes, would also help avoid the impending fiscal cliff. In order for the discharge petition to be successful, Nancy Pelosi did note that Democrats will need the help of some House Republicans. She noted that some GOP members are open to the idea of extending the Bush era tax cuts for the middle class and not the wealthy, though none of them have told her they will sign the discharge petition.
Slate notes that discharge petitions rarely work, because signing a majority petition is usually considered a major breach of party discipline. Despite the fact that it may not work, the use or threatened use of a discharge petition can help break up a stalemate.
While House Majority Leader Boehner has gained a lot of leverage lately with negotiations with the Obama administration, telling them he needs a plan that will sell well to his conservative base, a discharge petition may provide leverage for the minority by forcing Boehner to make sure there are no defections from the left.
Boehner spoke on Friday about the troubles preventing the fiscal cliff, along with the negotiations currently going on in the House. He stated, “There’s a stalemate. Let’s not kid ourselves.” He added that the White House has not yet offered them a “serious proposal … so right now we’re almost nowhere.”
Nancy Pelosi disagreed with Boehner’s assessment, saying, “I hope not.” She added of the stalemate assertion “maybe that’s a figure of speech.” If the Republicans do not bring the Senate tax cut bill to the floor in the next week, it is likely that the Democrats will try to force their hand using a discharge petition.