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The Spring of Discharge Petitions

Democrats hope to transfer the blame for failed popular legislation from Speaker John Boehner to the more moderate House Republicans in swing districts.

With hopes for bipartisan legislation basically dead this year Democrats have decided to turn to a long strategy based on discharge petitions. If a majority of House members sign a discharge petition it is brought to the floor for a vote.

Democrats are talking about circulating discharge petitions for both a minimum wage increase and immigration reform. The chances of this working as a legislative strategy are small. It is unlikely enough Republicans will defy their party leadership to help Democrats to get enough signatures.

As a political strategy it has the potential to be much more successful. It allows Democrats to transfer the blame for failed popular legislation from Speaker John Boehner to the more moderate House Republicans in swing districts. Instead of the minimum wage increase dying because Boehner won’t bring it to the floor, Democrats can say it failed because Congressman X refused to sign the discharge petition. Given that it will be very difficult for Democrats to unseat Boehner by taking back the House this shift in focus could be useful political narrative.

Expect to hear a fair amount about discharge petitions this election season.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is now living in the Washington DC area. He created a politics and policy blog, The Walker Report (http://jwalkerreport.blogspot.com/).

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