House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., right, speaks to members of the media with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after a meeting with President Biden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.(Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., is rallying Democrats behind a complicated parliamentary tactic to force a vote on raising the debt limit, a long-shot gambit that could put Republicans in a tough spot as Congress' fiscal deadline fast approaches.
Democrats filed a procedural measure called a discharge petition at 10 a.m. Wednesday, which would allow a coalition of lawmakers to circumvent House leadership and put a bill on the floor for a vote. All that is required is 218 House members to sign the petition — meaning all 213 Democrats and five Republicans.
A successful discharge petition would allow Democrats to vote on a clean debt-limit increase, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., would have no way to block the vote. However, it is very rare for this tactic to work — and the discharge petition must "bake" for seven legislative days before the House can act on it.
Jeffries wrote in a "Dear colleague" letter Wednesday morning that it is "imperative" for Democrats to sign the discharge petition.
"In the next few weeks, at the reckless urging of former President Trump, we confront the possibility that right-wing extremists will intentionally plunge our country into a default crisis. Emerging from the White House meeting, I am hopeful that a real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution that prevents a default," Jeffries wrote.
"However, given the impending June 1 deadline and urgency of the moment, it is important that all legislative options be pursued in the event that no agreement is reached. Accordingly, later on this morning, Budget Committee Ranking Member Brendan Boyle will file a discharge petition to provide a vehicle that may be necessary to protect the full faith and credit of the United States," he announced.
"It is imperative that Members make every effort to sign the discharge petition today, which will be available at the Clerk’s desk on the House Floor beginning at 10 a.m. As always, thank you for your leadership and unity of purpose in continuing to put people over politics."
Even with every Democrat on board — and that is not guaranteed — a discharge petition would need bipartisan support that is unlikely to come unless negotiations between President Biden and McCarthy completely break down.
t a deal can be reached. McCarthy said Republicans and the president remain "far apart" but added that "it is possible to get a deal by the end of the week."
Biden called it a "productive meeting," and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledged that passing a bipartisan bill in both chambers of Congress is the only way to raise the debt limit.
"Hakeem and I are committed to getting that bipartisan bill done," Schumer told reporters after the meeting. "We will not sacrifice our values," he added. "They’ll probably not sacrifice their values. But we’ll have to come together on something that can avoid default. Default is a disaster. Full stop."