This is almost too devilish to believe, but it just shows what happens when you have professionals running the agenda for a major political party.
In the first four days of the new legislative session in January of 2023, while the Freedom caucus was batting Cavein McCarthy around like a rubber mouse, and the Democrats were voting monolithically for Hakeem Jeffries on every ballot, senior leadership was working with a junior Democratic member nobody ever heard of on a secret plan to save the government from defaulting.
The plan went into effect on the first actual day of the legislative session, after Squeaker McCarthy was coronated. 5th term Democrat Mark DeSaulnier of California put a bill on the floor for consideration. And what a bill! It was so vague, and wide ranging that it was finally determined that the bill potentially touched on the responsibility of 20 different House committees. And so it was sent off to 20 committees for consideration.
Which is where it has lain ever since. Every couple of weeks, Democratic ranking committee Richie Neal would tweak it a bit, take out this line, add that line, shifting the focus quietly, and being ignored all the time by everybody else in congress.
Which was exactly what Democratic leadership. Because this isn’t just any old doomed congressional bill. This is a very special congressional bill. This is what is known in congress as a shell bill. Apparently, in order to be considered eligible for a discharge petition, A bill has to languish in committee for at least 30 days. And now that Neal has slowly, carefully, invisibly turned that bill into a perfect vehicle for an amendment to raise the debt ceiling, and force it to a vote over McCarthy’s objections, the Democrats are ready to rock-and-roll.
Today the Democrats filed the motion on the floor to bring the bill to the floor for consideration of a discharge petition, under expedited rules. The rules call for a seven legislative day delay until consideration. Which in legislative days means that the earliest the Democrats can call the bill to the floor for consideration is May 16th. Plenty of time.
In fact, I have written twice about the discharge petition as a vehicle for the Democrats to try to move things through the House, once in the week after McCarthy was elected Squeaker, predicting the debt ceiling, and again a month later. Both times I said to watch for this, and now here it is, right on time.
In its simplest form, the discharge petition is a parliamentary way for the party in the minority to try to force bills DOA in committee to the floor for a vote. It works like this.
When the Democrats bring the bill to the floor on the 16th, with the debt ceiling increase amendment, under the expedited rules the Democrats have requested, the bill will receive two hours of floor debate. After that, it’s much ado about nothing.
There will be a good old fashioned paper petition, like the ones they ask you to sign in the Walmart parking lot, placed on a corner of the House clerks desk. That’s it. Depending on the rules for that particular bill, there are 3-5 days that the petition sits there. People come up and sign. The secret sauce is to get 218 votes, the majority required to pass a bill on the petition. If the Democrats do, then it means a normal debate period, followed by an up and down floor vote.
Personally I like the Democrats odds. There are 25-28 moderate GOP members in swing districts out there, and their jobs are on the line. And McCarthy barely got the 218 votes he needed to pass his show bill to cut billions in discretionary spending to raise the debt ceiling. Which tells me he’s already lost four moderates who weren’t ready to embarrass themselves in front of their constituents to board that death cruise.
My personal prediction is that the bill will pass. The Democrats need five GOP signatures on the petition, and for all five to vote to pass it on the floor. My best guess is that the Democrats will get 15-20 GOP moderate signatures on the petition, and it will pass comfortably on the floor. In something like this, the more the merrier, and the more moderates that sign on, they cover each other so that there’s no one traitor that bucked the party.
Look, no matter what their personal and political beliefs, come next November these swing district GOP moderates are already going to be swimming uphill against the abortion issue, mostly because of the insane positions of their state GOP brethren. The last thing they need is to be held responsible for the implosion of the global economy, their constituents 401k’s being turned into a bunch of nickels in a tin cup, and their senior constituents seeing their social security and Medicare benefits frozen, at least short term.
The GOP moderates have already been bitching in McCarthy’s ear nonstop about the total lack of any legislative accomplishments for them to take home to their voters. Four of them already abandoned him on his show bill to raise the debt ceiling. Whether McCarthy professionally lives or dies next November, these moderates have every intention of returning to their seats in January of 2025. Don’t touch that dial.