Wall Street Journal:
By Laura Meckler
March 26, 2014
Democrats, frustrated by House inaction on immigration, filed a “discharge petition” Wednesday aimed at forcing the Republican majority to bring legislation to the floor. Most agree the tactic won’t work, but supporters hope it will amp up pressure on the GOP.
A discharge petition is a way to force a floor vote on a particular piece of legislation. In this case, the petition seeks to dislodge the comprehensive Democratic immigration bill, which mostly mirrors the bill passed by the Senate last year. If Democrats get 218 signatures—a majority of the House—then a floor vote is eventually guaranteed.
The problem is that reaching that threshold requires more than a dozen Republicans to defy their leadership and sign a Democratic petition. Even the three Republicans who are co-sponsoring the Democratic bill have said they won’t sign the petition.
Still, the move is seen as a way to make it more difficult for lawmakers to say they support an immigration overhaul if they don’t sign the petition.
On Wednesday, Democrats emphasized the urgency of aiding more than 11 million people in the U.S. illegally; under the legislation, they would get the chance for citizenship.
“We’re here for a purpose,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.) “It’s been 273 days since our colleagues in the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform. Every single day, about a thousand people are separated from their families and are deported from our country.”
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has said he wants to act on immigration, and early this year he put forward a set of principles to guide GOP legislation. But a week later, he said it would be difficult to move forward, and the issue is widely viewed as stuck.
Some are still hoping for action this summer after most GOP primaries are over, which could make it politically easier for some House Republicans to debate the issue.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to the discharge petition by pointing to comments from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) about its prospects for success.
“We’ll never get to 218 (signatures) on the discharge petition,” she said in an interview earlier this month on Sirius XM. Mr. Steel replied: “We agree with Rep. Pelosi.”
In her interview, Ms. Pelosi added that the discharge petition can help add pressure on the issue. A Democratic leadership aide added that in past cases, the House majority has brought legislation to the floor that was subject of a discharge petition, even though it did not reach the requisite threshold.
Typically, though, the move fails. Democrats are trying to use a discharge petition to force a vote on raising the minimum wage, for instance, but that shows no sign of success.
Separately Wednesday, there was a bit of bipartisan action on immigration. Reps. Steve Pearce (R., N.M.) and Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas) introduced legislation that seeks to address complaints about the U.S. Border Patrol from both their districts. The bill would add training and establish an ombudsman for citizen complaints, an aide said.
In an interview, Mr. Pearce said he’s found many people excited about the fact that a Democrat and a Republican can find common ground on any aspect of the difficult immigration issue. He said people have told him: “Thank goodness Washington is finally finding people can work across party lines.”
But he said he cannot support the Democratic bill or an idea put forth by Mr. Boehner that would give people in the country illegally a legal status and then in certain cases, the chance for citizenship. “It tells the people waiting in their country to do it right that they are foolish,” he said.
He added that he cannot support any bill that has a citizenship option in it, and said he will not support any immigration legislation at all unless the Senate and the White House agree that they will not try and amend the House bill to add such citizenship provisions later.
“What we need is reassurance they’re not going to put amnesty in a bill we pass and then send it back to us,” he said.
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