The Politics of ‘Discharge Petition’


Despite the Senate’s passage of the the immigration reform bill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made it clear that he will not bring up the bill to a vote without that majority support of House Republicans.

This Washington Post article explains how it is possible (although unlikely to happen – as the article explains why) to go around this so-called “Hastert Rule,” through a process called “discharge petition.”

The discharge petition allows an absolute majority of the House of Representatives (218 lawmakers) to force a floor vote on a bill, even if the leadership, who usually controls what legislation makes it to the floor, is opposed. The opposition party can, in theory, use the technique to hijack the legislative agenda on an issue that divides the majority.

“If Republicans really do want to pass immigration reform just to get it over and done with, but they want to do it without getting their fingerprints all over it, the discharge petition is easily their best bet. As Steve says, all it requires is 20 or 30 Republicans in safe seats to vote for it, while the entire rest of the caucus gets to continue railing against it while secretly breathing a sigh of relief. That’s totally logical.”