It's a long-shot move that almost never works, but out of frustration and desperation, Democrats in the House of Representatives will try to use a discharge petition to force a vote on renewing and extending emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) for the more than 2 million American workers who have been abandoned by Congress.
The way a discharge petition works is that it requires a majority of House members to sign on to move a bill that's currently languishing in committee. That means at least 218 signatories, which means a significant number of House Republicans would have to sign, too.
Democrats tried this move previously, with raising the minimum wage, and did not succeed. While there's majority support among the public for both raising the minimum wage and renewing EUC, the latter is considerably more widely supported than the former. In other words, the Democrats' chances of reaching the magic number are slim indeed.
The Democrats' real goal, though, appears to be simply keeping the issue of EUC in the news, despite the unlikelihood of legislative progress on that (or really any other) issue until after November's midterm elections.
"If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand," said Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Illinois who plans to file the petition. "Partisan politics must not be allowed to get in the way of doing the right thing for our middle class families. That’s why I'll be filing a measure to end the gridlock and force a vote on extending unemployment insurance."
House Republican leaders have said they're not very interested in an unemployment insurance bill if it doesn't come with any GOP-friendly provisions. And they're happy to let the Democratic-controlled Senate make the first move, something the Senate has been unable to do.
"The Speaker has said repeatedly that if Senate Democrats can produce an extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits that is not only paid for, but also does something to actually create jobs, he will be happy to discuss it," Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an email last week.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated reauthorizing the unemployment insurance would add 200,000 jobs to the economy, but Republicans have ignored or dismissed the CBO's findings on unemployment benefits and jobs.