Could Members force a vote on the DISCLOSE Act?
In both the House and Senate, the majority controls the agenda and the Speaker decides what gets a vote, with one exception: the discharge petition.
In the House, if a majority sign on to "discharge" a bill from committee (218 signatures required), it will be brought to the Floor for a vote. Since 1993, all signators to a discharge petition are public. This means that this petition can only be sucessful if some members of the majority party are willing to buck their own leadership to see a bill get a vote.
This week some House Members are touting a discharge petition in the House that would force a vote on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending (DISCLOSE) Act (HR 4010) from Represenative Chris Van Hollen [D-MD-8]. The discharge petition currently has 149 signatures, 79 short of the 218 that would be necessary to force a vote.
Today the Senate will hold a cloture vote on a similar bill. The Senate bill, S 3369 from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI], would "provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities…" Senate Republicans have indicated they will filibuster and the bill is not expected to make it to an up or down vote.
While rare, discharge petitions have been employed by both parties throughout the years. Additional discharge petitions filed in the current Congress are:
- HR 1148 The STOCK Act from Rep. Tim Walz [D-MN-1]: While the requisite 218 was never reached for this petition, the bill was brought to the Floor and passed on February 9, 2012. It was signed into law on April 4, 2012. (View the discharge petition.)
- HR 1297 The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act from Rep. Louis Gohmert [R-TX-1]: This bill was introduced in the heat of the debt ceiling talks, and would have provided that members of the military would still get paid in the event of a government shutdown. In the end, a deal was reached and a shutdown avoided. (View the discharge petition.)
- HR 639 The China Currency Bill from Rep Sander Levin [D-MI-12]: The first discharge petition of the 112th Congress currently has 179 signatures. The bill passed the Senate in October 2011 and continues to be discussed on the 2012 Presidential campaign trail.