WSJ and The Hill Explain How the Dem Discharge Petition on the Debt Limit Works
A discharge petition requires 218 signatures, regardless of party—a majority of the House—to dislodge a bill from committee and move it to the floor.
But the measure must sit in committee for 30 legislative days, defined as beginning when a chamber gavels into session and ending when it adjourns. Lawmakers estimate that 30 legislative days could translate into about 2½ or 3 calendar months. Democrats say the bill has now exceeded that mark.
The next step in the process is filing a discharge petition, which will start the signature-gathering process. The petition, however, cannot be filed for seven legislative days after the special rule is introduced, meaning the earliest signatures can begin to be collected is on May 16.
The special rule was just introduced by Rep. McDermott starting the seven-day clock. But these are not seven calendar days, they are seven legislative days, which is why the first date when the Democratic Members of Congress can begin signing the discharge petition is May 16th.
In other words, House Democratic members will have to wait until May 16th before they begin, en mass, signing the debt limit discharge petition.
Once all the Dems have gone to the Clerk of the House and signed it, they will begin looking for five Republicans who will sign it too, giving them 218 signatures and forcing a vote, within 48 hours, on the House floor.
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: the special rule 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.
The ability to change the bill daily in response to negotiations with potential Republicans who may sign the discharge petition is key.