White House Sidesteps Tactic to Force House Immigration Vote

As House Democrats mull a procedural tactic to force a vote on immigration reform legislation, the White House was cagey about whether it supports the maneuver.

After House GOP leaders all but shelved immigration reform this year, the White House sidestepped questions about whether it backs what’s known as a “discharge petition” to force a vote on a House bill that closely mirrors the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill.

“The president and this administration have committed to taking a step back and giving House Republicans the opportunity to consider a range of proposals … on immigration reform,” spokesman Josh Earnest said at a daily press briefing. “So, we're going to give House Republicans the opportunity to have some conversations among themselves.”

A discharge petition is a parliamentary tactic used by a member of the House to force a floor vote on a piece of legislation over the opposition of the majority party’s leadership. It must garner a majority of signatures of the full House in order to move forward.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last week encouraged House Democrats to use such a maneuver. Many House Democrats believe they could find the 18 to 20 GOP votes they’d need to pass the Senate immigration bill if all Democrats also voted for the package. If nothing else, the tactic would increase pressure on Republicans and their speaker, John Boehner, to act on the issue.

But House Democratic leaders are somewhat reluctant to use a discharge petition. Democrats last week announced they would use the tactic on a minimum wage law but declined to specify why they wouldn’t on immigration reform. Critics contend this is because immigration is a wedge issue the party can use effectively in 2014’s midterms – and even moreso in 2016.