Democrats Plan to Discharge GOP Bill to End Shutdown (Updated)

Miller, right, is heading up a Democratic plan to end the government shutdown by bringing up a GOP measure through a discharge petition. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Updated: 3:13 p.m. | House Democrats are moving ahead with a plan to discharge a GOP bill that automatically funds the government, advancing a course that could eventually end the government shutdown — if enough Republicans cooperate.

Democrats announced Friday afternoon that they would file a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., that has been waiting for action by the Appropriations Committee since March.

As CQ Roll Call reported Friday, Republicans have had a long history with the plan; many in the GOP have endorsed the idea over the years, including former Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Reps Paul D. Ryan and Jeb Hensarling.

The discharge petition would not simply adopt the Lankford bill, which would give 100 percent funding for 120 days before exacting a 1 percent cut every 90 days if the government does not produce funding bills.

Instead, the discharge petition would offer language to substitute Lankford's bill with a clean CR to Nov. 15. Democrats think they have the votes for the plan.

"We've had some conversations," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who is heading up the plan with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Miller said they have spoken to "a range of Republicans" who they feel could support the plan, and believe they could sign them up in a day after a week for the petition to ripen.

"So this discharge petition gives them the opportunity to do that," Miller said. "They're obviously not happy with the current plan. You can burn a lot of fingers here when you mindlessly shutdown the government."

Democrats will bring around the discharge petition over the next seven days. Because Lankford introduced the bill in March, it has already ripened in an initial stage of the discharge process.

Democrats said it could lead to a House vote by Oct. 14, though even if it were to get through the chamber, it would be subject to filibusters in the Senate. Republicans, however, disputed that timeline. A GOP aide said it would likely be weeks before the petition would be privileged on the floor, and even then, it can only be called up on the second and fourth Mondays of the month.

Still, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bid "an attempt for us in a bipartisan way to open up government." It was first suggested by the dean of the House, Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich.

Dingell ripped Republicans, saying they “petulantly go about their business like spoiled children," and said the discharge petition was an attempt to "rescue" the GOP from a shutdown of their own making.

Brendan Buck, spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, dismissed the plot on Twitter.

It was unclear how many in the GOP would actually sign the petition, but more than 20 moderate Republicans have been quietly revolting and are showing support for a clean CR, including: Peter T. King of New York, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Michael G. Grimm of New York, Mike Simpson of Idaho, Devin Nunes of California, C.W. Bill Young of Florida, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Jon Runyan of New Jersey, Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, Michael G. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, Rob Wittman of Virginia and Scott Rigell of Virginia.

The other procedure available to Democrats is to defeat the previous question, which House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said would give Democrats the opportunity force a clean CR to the floor. But so far, Republicans haven't been willing to vote with Democrats to do so, he said.

"They tell me that their guys are being threatened if they do anything like that," Hoyer said of Republicans. He added that "sticking with your party in this instance ... means the people’s government is shut down."