House Speaker John Boehner says budget negotiations with the White House have stalled.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks she can get them started again.
In her weekly Capitol briefing Friday, Pelosi said she’ll take a procedural step to force a vote on extending the middle-income Bush tax cuts, if Republicans don’t put that legislation on the schedule themselves.
“We’re calling upon the Republican leadership in the House to bring this legislation to the floor next week,” Pelosi said. “We believe that not doing that would be holding middle-income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich. … If it is not scheduled, then on Tuesday we will be introducing a discharge petition.”
Pelosi would need 218 signatures for her discharge petition to succeed, which means a lot of Republican support. And though that support may exist in principle within the Republican conference, it’s quite another thing for members to break ranks with their leadership and enlist in a Democrat-led effort to force a vote on President Obama’s top legislative priority.
GOP leadership has dismissed this and other efforts to force a vote on Senate-passed legislation to extend most of the Bush tax cuts. And Pelosi acknowledged during her press availability that no Republicans have approached Democratic leaders to signal their support for her efforts. Indeed, discharge petitions are rarely ever successful.
But the existence of the petition, along with other procedural tools available to the House minority will increase pressure on moderate Republicans to defy leadership as time goes on and the complete expiration of the Bush tax cuts looks more and more likely.
A small, but growing number of House Republicans are advocating that the GOP relent on the Bush tax cuts for high earners, and move on to future fights over the debt limit and other must-pass legislation, in which the GOP has more leverage. If more and more Republicans come around to this view, it’ll pressure Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership to negotiate a deal with the White House at the very least.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.