A Democratic plan to force a House vote to reopen the government appears to be a non-starter after two prominent Republican moderates rejected the idea of signing the necessary petition. So once again, the only thing standing in the way of such a vote is House Speaker John Boehner.
On Monday, House Democratic leadership released a letter including the signatures of 195 Democrats asking for a vote on a government-funding measure without any amendments defunding the Affordable Care Act. Including those Republicans who've publicly stated support for such a measure (which would approve sequester-level funding for the government through the middle of December) that suggests a majority of the House — 195 Democrats and nearly two dozen Republicans — would be willing to vote in favor of what's known as a "clean CR;" that is, an unamended continuing budget resolution.
In an interview on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Boehner again asserted that he wouldn't bring such a measure up for a vote. His argument? It would fail — quickly prompting Democrats to suggest that he give it a shot anyway. After all, if Boehner thought it would fail, why not allow the vote and prove it? End the controversy? As Sen. Chuck Schumer put it: "Put it on the floor and let's see if you're right." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid piled on. "Are you afraid this measure will pass, the government will reopen and the American people will realize you took the country hostage for no apparent reason?"
Perhaps. But without Boehner allowing a vote, the only way to force a vote on the measure is a procedural move called a "discharge petition." As reported by The Washington Post last week, two Democrats announced their intent to pull that maneuver, which needs a majority of members of the House to sign on. With 217 votes — nearly all of the 200 Democrats in the chamber and one or two dozen Republicans — the measure would come to a vote despite Boehner's objections. Monday's letter suggested that they might be close.
Two prominent Republicans, however, are now on record opposing the move. On Sunday, New York Rep. Peter King told Fox News Sunday that he opposed the idea. On Monday, Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent joined him. Both believe a final vote on a clean CR would pass, mind you: King estimated they'd have 50 to 75 Republican votes; Dent indicated there were "many" who have told him they'd do so. Anything more than 23 (in addition to the 195 signatories to Nancy Pelosi's letter) and the clean funding bill would pass, mirroring the version already passed in the Senate multiple times. But without moderates willing to step up and sign the discharge, it falls back on Boehner to allow the vote.
Speaking to furloughed FEMA workers on Monday, President Obama offered his own interpretation of why Boehner refuses to do so.
Let every member of Congress vote their conscience. They can determnine whether or not they want to shut the government down. My suspicion is — my very strong suspicion is — that there are enough votes there, and the reason that Speaker Boehner hasn't called a vote on it, is that he doesn't want to see the shutdown end at the moment.
Could be. With the discharge dead, we're left with Boehner's highly questionable assertion that a clean CR vote would fail — an assertion that may never be tested. Regardless, it's safe to assume that this decision by Boehner will be questioned for years to come.