Every House Democrat has endorsed the discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to hike the debt ceiling and prevent a default, party leaders announced Wednesday.
The signatures of the two final holdouts — Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) — puts the total number at 213, meaning Democratic leaders still need to find five Republicans for the petition to be successful.
“It takes a handful of members of the GOP to say, ‘Enough,’” Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), the Democratic whip, told reporters in the Capitol.
That’s a heavy lift, since it would require GOP lawmakers to buck the wishes of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is in tense negotiations with the White House over a debt-ceiling package and is opposed to a vote on the “clean” debt-limit hike preferred by Democrats.
The procedural gambit is a long shot: Only two discharge petitions have been successful in the last two decades. Still, Democratic leaders are hoping their party’s unanimity on the document will pressure moderate Republicans to sign on, particularly if talks between President Biden and McCarthy don’t yield fruit and the threat of default is imminent.
“We’re five signatures away,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “So for our Republican colleagues who give interviews and go back home and talk about how they want to work together, and talk about how they’re not extreme like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and how she doesn’t speak for them — this is their opportunity.”
Some moderate Republicans have already hinted at a willingness to join Democrats on a discharge petition if Congress inches too close to a federal default with no resolution in sight. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a co-chairman of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, said earlier in the year that he might do so — “if that’s necessary.”
Since then, however, House Republicans have passed a debt ceiling proposal of their own, which would extend the government’s borrowing authority by $1.5 trillion and reduce deficit spending by roughly $4.8 trillion over the next decade.
That’s the proposal McCarthy has taken into the negotiations as an opening bid, and Fitzpatrick more recently has thrown cold water on the idea of endorsing the Democrats’ discharge petition.
“We’re not even close to anything like that,” Fitzpatrick said last week. “We already created a framework, and the Senate hasn’t acted. So the House can’t take Step 3 until at least Step 1 is passed. So the discharge petition is off the table.”
Updated 5:19 p.m.