House Democrats say they are determined to push for key votes on a pair of hot-button topics in the current session, and purposely in advance of the midterm elections in November.
The goal, they say, is to put the spotlight on majority Republicans in an election year – to put them on record as, likely, opposing both issues.
In order to do so, Democratic leaders say they plan to use a rarely successful tactic known as a “discharge petition” – which requires the minority party to persuade enough Republicans (in this case, 17) to defy their leadership and join with Democrats to force votes on both issues.
A discharge petition, if successful, allows the minority party to bypass House leadership to bring measures to the full chamber for consideration.
Democrats want to push a measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; they also want to force a vote on a sweeping immigration reform measure that would provide legal status to millions of people currently in the U.S. illegally.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has, so far, given no indication he is ready to bring either measure up for a vote, at least before the midterms. And it’s not clear how successful Democratic leaders will be in convincing 17 House Republicans to join their cause, but the odds are not good.
The tactic is clearly a political maneuver designed to put Republicans on record opposing a pair of measures Democrats believe are popular among the American electorate.
In terms of raising the minimum wage, Democrats are right; according to a recent Gallup survey, a vast majority of Americans – 76 percent – support boosting the minimum wage to $9 an hour, up from its current level of $7.25.
However, on immigration reform – especially any bill that would provide some sort of amnesty for illegal aliens – 60 percent of Americans are opposed, according to a November 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
Congress is currently in recess; lawmakers return to work Feb. 24.