WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2023
House Dems are looking for five: As of last evening's Last Word, happy days were here again, according to Lawrence O'Donnell.
Needless to say, it's always possible that Lawrence is right. He was hailing a modern-day Trojan horse designed to forestall our onrushing federal default.
What the Sam Hill are we talking about? Let's make a long story short:
Democrats want to have a vote in the House on a "clean" bill to raise the debt limit. The bill should raise the debt limit, full stop. No budget reductions attached!
But uh-oh! Under normal procedures, Speaker Kevin McCarthy decides which bills got voted on in the House. And he wants to force President Biden to agree to sweeping budget reductions.
In today's report, Hulse explains a secret weapon Democrats have designed to force a "clean" House vote. As Lawrence noted last night, that secret weapon is secret no more! In the jargon of the House, that weapon is known as a "discharge petition."
Headline included, Hulse starts as shown. Try to fight through the jargon:
House Democrats Move to Force a Debt-Limit Increase as Default Date Looms
The only clue to the gambit was in the title of the otherwise obscure hodgepodge of a bill: “The Breaking the Gridlock Act.”
But the 45-page legislation, introduced without fanfare in January by a little-known Democrat, Representative Mark DeSaulnier of California, is part of a confidential, previously unreported, strategy Democrats have been plotting for months to quietly smooth the way for action by Congress to avert a devastating federal default if debt ceiling talks remain deadlocked.
With a possible default now projected as soon as June 1, Democrats on Tuesday began taking steps to deploy the secret weapon they have been holding in reserve. They started the process of trying to force a debt-limit increase bill to the floor through a so-called discharge petition that could bypass Republican leaders who have refused to raise the ceiling unless President Biden agrees to spending cuts and policy changes.
“House Democrats are working to make sure we have all options at our disposal to avoid a default,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, wrote in a letter he sent to colleagues on Tuesday. “The filing of a debt ceiling measure to be brought up on the discharge calendar preserves an important option. It is now time for MAGA Republicans to act in a bipartisan manner to pay America’s bills without extreme conditions.”
How much complexification is involved in this arcane legislative maneuver? So much that even Lawrence explicitly said that he doesn't understand it.
(He said he understands Senate rules, but that even he can't follow this.)
At any rate, this "secret weapon" is no longer secret—and it's designed to avoid the disaster of a coming default. But is there any real chance that this Trojan horse will bark?
As this morning's report continues, Hulse brings the eternal note of sadness in as he cops to the highlighted points seen below:
An emergency rule Democrats introduced on Tuesday, during a pro forma session held while the House is in recess, would start the clock on a process that would allow them to begin collecting signatures as soon as May 16 on such a petition, which can force action on a bill if a majority of members sign on. The open-ended rule would provide a vehicle to bring Mr. DeSaulnier’s bill to the floor and amend it with a Democratic proposal—which has yet to be written—to resolve the debt limit crisis.
The strategy is no silver bullet, and Democrats concede it is a long shot. Gathering enough signatures to force a bill to the floor would take at least five Republicans willing to cross party lines if all Democrats signed on, a threshold that Democrats concede will be difficult to reach. They have yet to settle on the debt ceiling proposal itself, and for the strategy to succeed, Democrats would likely need to negotiate with a handful of mainstream Republicans to settle on a measure they could accept.
Oof! According to legend, Diogenes searched all through Athens, looking for one honest man. House Democrats will have to find at least five, just in the Republican caucus!
It has long been assumed that fights like this always get resolved in the end. But that was then, and this is now, with McCarthy riding herd on what seems to be the nuttiest GOP caucus yet.
We've been wondering all along if this will be the year when the old order finally breaks. Lawrence was almost giddy last night as he discussed this tricky maneuver. That said, he was quoting directly from Hulse's report, and Hulse's report says this:
"Democrats concede" that this strategy "is a long shot"—that the threshold of (at least) five honest Republicans "will be difficult to reach."
Larence may have been out over his skis last night. On the brighter side, we still get to turn to cable news, where we can still hear plenty of talk on that one glorious theme:
Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!