Five things to know about discharge petitions

The current buzzword in Washington is “discharge petition.”

A discharge petition is a little-known and rarely used legislative maneuver facing members of the House of Representatives designed to force a vote on sending aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

There are currently two discharge petitions circulating – one from House Democratic leadership and the other from a Bucks County congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).

Republicans probably won’t sign on Democrats petition in the House of Representatives for the Senate’s $95 billion foreign aid bill, some Democrats say Fitzpatrick Petition is not a starter.

As of 3:05 p.m. EST, Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, His petition collected 14 signaturesincluding his own and no one else in the Pennsylvania delegation.

Democratic leadership petition filed by James McGovern (D-Mass.), currently has 177 of the required 218 signatures needed, among others Representatives Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Mary Gaj Scanlon (PA-05), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Zuzanna Dzika (PA-07), Matt Cartwright (PA-08) i Chris Deluzio (PA-17).

Here are five things to know about discharge applications.

    1. A discharge petition is a way to present a bill for consideration without a committee report. Under normal House rules, each bill introduced by a member is assigned to a committee for vetting and review before going to a final vote. However, in the case of legislation that has been in committee for at least 30 days while the House is in session, a discharge petition may be used to push the bill to a vote. The petition “relieves” the committee from further consideration of the bill, giving more power to individual House members and taking power away from leadership (House Speaker Mike Johnson), which usually assigns bills to committees and controls the legislative schedule.
    1. For a discharge motion to be effective, a majority of the House must support it. For a discharge application to be considered, it must be supported by at least 218 members of the House. This makes a discharge application a hard maneuver. Minority party members who want to file a discharge motion must convince a number of majority party members to support the legislation, which is hard because majority members are often reluctant to oppose their own party’s leadership. Most discharge applicationstherefore, 218 votes are missing.
    1. The rules regarding discharge petitions were changed in 1993 so that members could no longer secretly support petitions. Before the 103rd Congress, members could anonymously support a discharge petition – their identities would only be revealed if the initiative was successful. However, since 1993, the identity of all signatories of discharge petitions has been the same revealed as soon as they register. One effect of this is that congressional leaders can identify potential discharge petition signatories and put direct pressure on them to oppose the measure, often resulting in discharge petitions failing to achieve the majority required for passage.
    1. The last successful discharge application was submitted in 2015. Although numerous discharge requests are submitted to each Congress, successful ones have become extremely sporadic, and since 1993, only two have entered into force. The last one was in 2015, when the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s authorization was about to expire. That same year, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee refused to hold a hearing or introduce reauthorization legislation. So a bipartisan duo U.S. Representative Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) i Denny Heck (D-Wash.) resorted to a discharge petition, signed by a majority of House members, to force passage of the legislation. More than 40 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure.
  1. Democrats will need five Republicans to support their discharge petition. If all 213 House Democrats support the discharge petition, Democrats will need at least five Republicans to join their ranks to force their relief bill to the floor. However, most reports suggest that Republicans are unlikely to effectively cede control of the debt ceiling to the Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.).

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