- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal plan to die in committee, but Republicans are intent on giving her a chance to have a vote on the chamber floor.

They’re using a petition drive to try to force Mrs. Pelosi to have to schedule a vote.

While that move is more about embarrassing Democrats, the GOP is also running a petition drive to try to force a vote on a bill to protect babies who survive botched abortions.

If Republicans, who are in the minority, can get signatures from a majority of the House, they can earn their vote over the objection of Democrats who run the chamber.

Known as “discharge petitions,” the tactic is a favorite of parties out of power, though success is measured more in mischief than in actual accomplishment.

“People in America have to know that we’re fighting for the right side,” Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican, told The Washington Times. “This is one tool in the tool box we have to message to America that we understand. We have a different opinion and we want it to be heard.”

The GOP launched its discharge petition on the Green New Deal at the beginning of this month. Over the first two weeks it garnered 95 signatures, all from Republicans.

Given the nearly 200 members of the GOP caucus, that suggests many are reluctant to sign onto anything that smacks of support of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s plan — even if meant to tweak her.

“It’s meant to embarrass the majority party and I think a lot of Republicans don’t want to play that game,” said Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute.

No Democrats have signed on, including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. That lack of enthusiasm mirrors what happened in the Senate, where the Republicans who control that chamber brought Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s plan to the floor and not a single Democrat voted for it.

“For all of the talk about the Green New Deal and so many of the presidential candidates endorsing the Green New Deal, they ought to bring it to the floor for a vote and have everybody take a position,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise told The Times. “I think it’s a horrible policy that will destroy our economy and send millions of jobs to a foreign country.”

The born-alive abortion petition has done better, speeding to 199 signatures, including three Democrats, within a week of its introduction by Mr. Scalise on April 2.

“I think that there’s a strong chance that it can get the signatures needed,” he said. “It’s gonna be really hard for somebody to explain while they’re not willing to sign the discharge petition if they claim to be pro-life.”

But it hasn’t attracted any new signatures in more than a month.

Mr. Strand said that’s a typical pattern for discharge petitions, though he said the numbers could still grow given the salience of the issue. “It’s good politics but it also has a good chance of passage, simply because they can put pressure on more moderate Democrats to sign,” he said.

Most major legislation comes to the House floor under rules of debate, laying out how much time each side is given and what amendments are allowed. Those rules are written by the majority, which picks the bills that get votes and which puts so much pressure on members not to sign them.

A bipartisan group came close to success last year on a petition drive to force a major immigration amnesty to the floor. GOP leaders, then in control, headed that off by agreeing to a debate on a different set of immigration bills — none of which passed.

More successful was an effort nearly two decades ago to force a vote on a major campaign finance overhaul, again over the objection of GOP leaders. That petition was poised to earn enough votes, again forcing Republicans to agree to a floor debate on their terms.

The result was the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform that, with some Supreme Court tweaks, still controls campaign spending to this day.

Republicans this year are eyeing a third discharge petition to force a vote on a bill to renew military and financial assistance to Israel, while giving states and localities the legal green light to refuse to do business with individuals and organizations who subscribe to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement working against Israel.

A bipartisan coalition in the Senate easily passed the bill earlier this year, but House Democratic leaders have balked at bringing it to the floor, saying they believe it has legal questions. Mr. Strand predicted the anti-BDS petition will have momentum because many Democrats are looking for ways to distance themselves from remarks made by freshmen Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

“There are a whole bunch of Democrats in districts that really need that bill to pass because of actions taken by one of their colleagues,” he said. “For so many years, the Democratic Party was so solidly pro-Israel that this sort of snuck up on them that there’s this progressive movement that wasn’t.”

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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