The Hill 101: Discharge Petition
Bill status: stuck in committee
If you have paid attention to the "bill status" tab on POPVOX bills pages, you know that many have the same not-very-encouraging status:
This bill or resolution was assigned to a congressional committee on [x date] which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The majority of bills never make it past this point.
That underlined portion was coined by our CTO Josh Tauberer years ago as he was building GovTrack . Now, Josh is unquestionably a realist. For example, our internal POPVOX message delivery system reports back "Not a failure!" when a message gets delivered to a Congressional office. (A more optimistic person might call that "Success!", but Josh is much more cautious.) In the case of bills making it through once referred to committee, however, I'm with Josh... and Bill:
"I might die in committee..."
One way out
BUT, if you know your Elle Woods (that's " Legally Blonde, Part 2: Red, White & Blonde ", to be exact) you know there actually IS one way that a bill can be brought for a vote even if it does not get reported out of committee and is not selected by Leadership: a discharge petition . If at least half of the Members of the House sign to discharge a bill, it is brought to the Floor for a vote.
Discharge petition filed
Last week, Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) filed a discharge petition for his bill, HR 1297, the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011 . The bill appropriates funds to assure pay for active duty service members in the case of a government shutdown. There is a companion Senate bill, S. 724 , introduced by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison .
Watch its progress
Discharge petitions are rare, but even more rare are successful discharge petitions. You can watch the progress on this one on the website of the House Clerk. Currently, the tally stands at 13. Only 212 signatures to go.