WASHINGTON — As the Republican stalemate over government funding continues, two freshman GOP House members opened the door Thursday to end-running their party’s leadership and working with Democrats to fund the government.
Reps. Marc Molinaro and Mike Lawler, two New York Republicans who represent Hudson Valley-area districts that voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, said they’re willing to consider a “discharge petition” to force votes on a short-term funding bill — if their party fails to get its act together.
“It is absolutely an option,” Molinaro said outside the Capitol steps. “Working to ensure the government remains functional and that Congress is making the legitimate choices as it relates to funding … is an important principle.”
Lawler told reporters that if Republicans can’t unify to pass a continuing resolution, or CR, to approve short-term funding, he will pursue a discharge petition with Democrats.
“If there is not going to be a CR coming out of the House Republican caucus, then I will move forward with a discharge petition,” he said.
It’s far from clear what the underlying bill would be — and whether enough Republicans would be willing to break with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and team up with Democrats to force legislation to a vote.
Earlier, Lawler said that as long as Democrats control the Senate and the White House, “any final bill is going to be bipartisan. And if somebody doesn’t realize that, they’re truly clueless.”
The discharge petition is a rarely used tool that allows lawmakers to force a vote on legislation even if the House speaker doesn’t want to bring it up. It requires signatures from a majority of the chamber — and it takes time. First, a bill must sit in committee for at least 30 legislative days. That means it’s not a viable option to prevent a shutdown at the end of September, but it could be a last-ditch tool to reopen the government if the GOP logjam persists.
While he remains open to working with Democrats, Molinaro also spent Thursday afternoon working with one of the chief opponents of a continuing resolution, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to revive negotiations over a path forward on the GOP’s spending bills.
“I was asked to try to help find a way to a framework that allows us to move appropriations bills. I presented something that made sense to both ends of the ideological spectrum. And that allows us to remain committed to the belief that we spend too much of taxpayers’ money and ultimately have to focus effectively on national defense,” Molinaro said.
The House is divided between 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats, with two vacancies. That means at least five Republicans would have to break off for a discharge petition to succeed — potentially more if not all Democrats sign it. So far, GOP centrists have not shown a willingness to buck their leaders.
Some right-wing Republicans are warning colleagues not to go there.
“I don’t think it’s healthy, obviously, for Republicans to say they’ll go work literally with Democrats,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va. “To try to prevent Republicans from pursuing Republican policies — yeah, I think that would be an unhealthy thing.”
Others say the Republicans who float it are making empty threats.
“That’s been said for weeks. That’s old news,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. “We’re making tremendous progress forward to pass 12 appropriations bills. That’s what I fought for in January, and that’s what we’re going to continue to fight for right now.”
Democratic leaders have downplayed the prospects of a discharge petition to resolve the mess and noted that one hasn’t been filed.
A potential option for a discharge petition is a new proposal released late Wednesday by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which would fund the government through Jan. 11 at levels agreed to in the recent two-year budget deal, alongside unspecified border enforcement policies, Ukraine aid and disaster relief.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said that if the GOP border measures resemble “Title 42” rules to turn away asylum-seekers, a significant number of Democrats won’t sign on.
“That’s a non-starter. It will not happen,” Jayapal said. “They would lose too many of us on the discharge petition.”
Jayapal said that if Republicans want Democratic help, they should agree to a simple stopgap bill at current funding levels alongside supplemental requests.
“We’re not inclined to save them,” she said.