With only 199 House Democratic members, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew before, during, and after a Democratic leadership-led press conference on the steps of the Capitol that a procedural motion aimed at forcing a vote on comprehensive immigration reform would fail to garner the required 218 signatures needed to send an immigration bill to the House floor without first being passed out of committee. That discharge petition requires a bipartisan miracle and House Republicans have been unwilling to budge. But the Democrat-led effort is intended to call out Republicans who have called immigration the “800-pound gorilla,” but have done little to come up with a solution.
At the conference, several Democratic leaders and celebrity America Ferrera expressed their hope that the “Demand A Vote” discharge petition for the House Democrat-introduced comprehensive immigration bill would successfully make House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) allow a vote on immigration reform. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) said, “one person should not stand in the way of the will of the country.” Separately, during general speeches on the House floor, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said, “we have created a dysfunctional immigration system that does not meet our needs” while Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) touted the benefits of immigration reform, saying that the bill would “supercharge the economy of our great nation.”
Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post found that only two discharge petitions have been successful — once in the 1980s to weaken the 1968 Gun Control Act and again in 2002 to force a vote on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.
Advocates already have in their arsenal a target list of 30 House Republicans that they will pressure in their home districts. And if last year’s activism is any indication of the kind of pressure that House Republicans will likely encounter, they should expect another swarm of children-led rallies, women-led rallies, faith leader-led rallies, personal stories that may sway House Republicans’ immigration stance, sit-ins, visits from House Democrats, and arrests.
Cardenas said on the House floor, “We are just one vote away” from creating more jobs for Americans and re-energizing the economy. Just Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that the House Democrats’ version of the immigration bill would decrease the federal deficit by $200 billion between 2015 and 2024 and about $900 billion over 20 years. What’s more, a February 2014 CNN poll found that 88 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans support immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
On Wednesday afternoon, 227 House Republicans voted against House Democrats who brought up their version of an immigration bill during the “previous question” to a national monuments bill — that procedure allows the House to vote on “whether to order the previous question on a special rule” and instead focus on what it “should be debating.”