WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegates from the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have signed on as original co-sponsors of a bill introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro R. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico to amend rules governing House procedures that would enable the delegates to file and sign discharge petitions.
Rule 15, Clause 2 of the House rules—the discharge rule—provides a way for the House to bring a bill to the floor for a vote even though it has not been reported from committee. Typically, each bill introduced in the House is referred to a committee, and cannot receive floor consideration until the committee approves the bill. Thus, a House committee can typically prevent floor consideration of a bill by taking no action on that bill. The discharge rule offers the only means by which a majority of House members can secure floor consideration of a bill despite the opposition of House leadership, the committee of jurisdiction, and the Committee on Rules.
The discharge procedure is designed to be difficult to accomplish in order to discourage members from resorting routinely to the procedure. Specifically, a discharge motion may be offered on the floor only if a majority of the 435 voting members of the House—that is, 218 members—first sign a petition in support of the action. The discharge petition has been used successfully in a number of occasions to move important legislation. Namely, the discharge petition has been used successfully to bring McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation for a vote and it also was used to move Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 out of committee for House consideration.
On Oct. 4, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland filed a discharge petition, H. Res. 372, to bring to the floor a bill to temporarily fund the government and end the shutdown. Signatures can be added beginning on Oct. 12; however, the delegates are unable to sign this discharge petition that would put the government back to work.
“This resolution would enable delegates from the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia to more effectively represent our constituencies by allowing us to play a role, outside of our committees, in determining which bills should be considered on the House floor,” said Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) yesterday. “More immediately, this resolution would allow my fellow delegates and I to participate in the effort to compel a House vote on a ‘clean’ continuing resolution to end the current shutdown.
“The delegates represent about 4.5 million Americans, many of whom are tired of the partisan gridlock in Congress and are struggling with consequences of this shutdown and sequestration. I appreciate Resident Commissioner Pierluisi’s leadership of this effort to provide our constituents with a greater voice in debates on critically important legislation, and I stand with my Democratic colleagues in demanding a vote on a clean continuing resolution.” (PR)