Articles Tagged discharge-petition
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.
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.
Update: Discharge petition on China currency bill gaining steam
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