Time to Tee Up a Discharge Petition? Tradition and the Agreement to Be Speaker Work Against the Debt Limit Deal Getting to the House Floor via the Rules Committee

In the breathless tweets and a Washington Post article, no one mentions the elephant in the room: whether a discharge petition will be needed to get the debt limit increase bill to the floor of the U.S. House.

There are three really good reasons that the debt limit bill will not make it to the House floor via the Rules Committee:

  1. As part of the deal to become Speaker, some of the 20 outstanding votes as well as others, demanded that McCarthy agree that if even one GOP Member of the Rules Committee were at No on any legislation, then all the Republican Members of the Committee would vote No.  Representatives Roy and Norman are at No on the legislation to increase the Debt Limit.  McCarthy could get Rep. Massie and the remaining Republicans plus the four Democrats on the Committee to vote the bill out, but he risks violating the terms of this part of his agreement to become Speaker.  Given the way Reps Roy and Norman feel about the agreement with Biden, that would be adding fuel to the fire that could burn so bright it may cost McCarthy the Speakership.
  2. The Minority party never votes with the Majority party to vote out a rule on its legislation to the floor.  As in never — here is how the Washington Post article linked to above put it: “By tradition, the minority party’s committee members never vote for a rule drafted by the majority.”
  3. The Majority party never (not ever) splits their vote on the Rules Committee with some voting yes and some no, and those voting Yes vote with the Minority party to pass the bill and Rule out of the Rules Committee (see point 2. directly above).  This points to the House tradition and culture that underpins McCarthy’s agreement not to allow a Rule and bill to the floor if even one GOP member of the Rules Committee is at No.  McCarthy could muscle it through Rules with the Dems voting Yes and splitting the GOP votes, and violate Rules Committee tradition and custom — but at what cost?

If the Rules Committee pathway to the U.S. House floor is blocked, the legislation to raise the Debt Limit does not die.

The other way to get it to the U.S. House floor is to go around the Rules Committee, via a Discharge Petition.

The Dems are ready with a very workable Discharge Petition process, which is a big innovation and Rule change to use a Discharge Petition to bring legislation to the House floor — as I wrote three weeks ago:

The Special Rule

The key to the Democratic discharge petition plan is the special rule introduced in the Rules Committee that governs the Dem Debt Limit discharge petition gambit:  it allows the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal, to craft a different shell bill daily, so he can change it as needed to gather the five Republican votes needed to get to 218 votes to pass the bill.

Or change the bill attached to the Discharge Petition to get votes from others who may be holding out for some concession, in either party.

The question really is, to go to the House floor via a Discharge Petition or violate House tradition, custom, and this part of McCarthy’s agreement to be Speaker and muscle it through Rule Committee.

It may be that this part of the agreement is in question by the House Leadership.  But the no bill comes out of Rules even if there is one GOP vote at no provision, is not in doubt on the part of many of the 20 who voted No so many times on the vote for McCarthy to be Speaker.

If McCarthy muscles it through Rules, with Rep. Roy and Norman voting No, it could very well be the excuse renegade House GOP Members use to force a Motion to Vacate the Chair — that’s what is at stake for Speaker McCarthy.

It seems like the prudent approach is a Discharge Petition if any of the GOP Members of the Rules Committee remain at No.


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