Some swing district Republican lawmakers are signaling they could cross the aisle and work with Democrats to try to avert or shorten a looming government shutdown, as the House GOP conference struggles to coalesce around a negotiated spending bill of their own that would fund the government for a month.
Democrats and Republicans could use an arcane procedural step known as a “discharge petition” to force the vote on a clean spending bill on the floor, in effect shielding House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from having to do it himself.
But Democrats are warning that if Republicans are serious, they’d need to take action as soon as Tuesday and even that would not likely be fast enough to avert a shutdown.
A Democratic source told CNN that the process for forcing a floor vote on a bipartisan continuing resolution would go as follows (even as Democrats are not confident at this point enough Republicans are serious about pursuing the option and they are not holding out much hope this is a serious option):
- The source told CNN that there is already a legislative vehicle on the floor of the House from when it was filed during the debt ceiling that could be amended to fund the government, but five Republicans would have to sign on.
- Once that happened, it would ripen the following legislative day and it would take seven legislative days (days in the House is in session, not days of the week) before action could be taken on it. Then, someone would have to raise it on the floor and the speaker would be forced to schedule a vote within two legislative days.
- It’s possible that leadership could try to kill this move in the Rules Committee, but if they passed a rule to kill it, the rule would need to get a majority on the floor.
One rules expert warned that “it is viable but it is not something that works well with a deadline that is so many days away.” Government funding is slated to run out on September 30.
Still, it may be one way out if things fell apart, a shutdown started and a handful of Republicans from swing districts signed on.
The last time a discharge petition was used was in 2015 on legislation surrounding the import/export bank.
The Democratic caucus has already signed onto the discharge petition, so it would only take a handful of GOP members to cross the aisle and sign on.
However, it’s a complicated calculation for those members to buck their leadership and sign with Democrats on a proposal that would continue funding the government at a level that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated. Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican from New York, has blasted his GOP colleagues who won’t sign onto a Republican-only spending bill. He has said he’s open to working with Democrats.
“If the clown show of colleagues that refuse to actually govern does not want to pass the CR. I will do everything we need to make sure that a CR passes, the bottom line here says we’re not shutting the government down,” Lawler said. “These folks don’t have a plan. They don’t know how to take yes for an answer. They don’t know what it is to work as a team. They don’t know how to define a win. So at the end of the day, the American people sent us here to govern. They sent us here to be in the majority and be responsible. And that’s what I’m gonna do. And so if that requires, you know, taking action to get a bill on the floor to pass the (continuing resolution) because they refused to pass the rule, or they refuse to pass the CR that the vast majority of the conference supports, then that’s on their doorstep.”
Swing district Republicans, however, most certainly would face a backlash.
“Well, if moderate Republicans sign a discharge petition with Democrats, they are signing their own political death warrant and they are handing it to their executioner because it won’t be me and the conservatives off hunting the moderates. It’ll be the very Democrats that they would be working with under that hypothesis.” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a hardliner from Florida.
Rep. Don Bacon when asked about if he’d sign onto a discharge petition said, “One thing at a time.”
The Republican congressman from a Nebraska swing district, added, “I am part of the Problem Solver’s Caucus, and we are here talking and we’re ready to talk.”
CNN pressed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday morning on if he could blame moderates in his party if they signed onto a discharge petition to keep the government funded.
McCarthy didn’t directly answer the question, instead saying, “Listen, I think the best way to handle anything is you work through this conference, and you get the work done, and that’s what we are doing.”