All signs are still pointing to a government shutdown heading into this week — but Republican moderates might team up with Democrats to keep it brief.
That’s because House lawmakers may be able to bring a government funding bill to the floor using a discharge petition that Democrats originally set up as an insurance policy during this year’s debt ceiling showdown.
Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. has already warned he’d join Democrats on such a move if necessary to keep the government open, while Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y. recently said it was “absolutely an option.” Other members of the New York delegation have privately suggested they are open to it, along with GOP lawmakers from Pennsylvania and California, Semafor has learned.
Using a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation in the House is ordinarily a lengthy exercise ill-suited for emergencies. But the process could go more quickly in this case because Democrats filed a petition during the debt ceiling showdown earlier this year.
The move was meant to provide an emergency, break-glass option to prevent a U.S. default. But the underlying bill was written broadly enough that it could be used to avert a run-of-the-mill government funding lapse as well. The legislation has already “ripened,” meaning it won’t have to sit in committee for 30 days before legislators can use it.
The petition currently has 213 signatures. Once there are 218, the legislation should only need to wait nine legislative days to get a vote. (It would have to spend seven days sitting on the “discharge calendar.” After then, House rules would require a vote on it within two days). Government funding is set to lapse on Sunday.
New York Republicans have a small window to make a big splash on a national and local level. Halting a shutdown would put them at odds with the right flank of their party, but could win them points back home since five GOP New Yorkers represent Biden-won districts.
“I’m sure they’re not doing this solely out of the goodness of their hearts, and it will have some political benefit,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, told Semafor. “But keeping the government open is so important — keeping it operating — that we need to take their signatures, whatever their motivation.”
The mere threat of a discharge petition could also give McCarthy unspoken leverage over hard-right conservatives.
Room for Disagreement
Signing a discharge petition could conceivably backfire for the New Yorkers if it attracts enough criticism from within the party. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., McCarthy’s most ardent critic, threatened to blame New York Republican lawmakers for the recent migrant crisis, for instance.