House Democratic leaders at their retreat in Maryland danced around the question of whether they intended to use a discharge petition to force an immigration reform bill to the floor, insisting that raising the federal minimum wage should come first.
The rarely successful discharge petition requires the signatures of an absolute majority of the House to move it past the committee process and past House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who recently declared that there would be no immigration reform until President Obama could prove himself trustworthy.
“We do see immigration as an economic issue, reducing the deficit, growing the economy, and that is not excluded to be a discharge. But right now we are starting with the minimum wage. It’s part of our women’s economic agenda, when women succeed, America succeeds, and it’s a — we have the legislation, the Miller-Harkin Bill, so that’s why we’re going forward with that,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters.
The Dems were asked why they just don’t move forward now if they could get “40 to 50 Republican who would sign that the moment you issue” the petition. Liberal activists have also been calling for Dems to use the procedure to move immigration reform.
“We believe the minimum wage makes very clear that we want to build an economy that works for all Americans. Immigration, unemployment insurance, there are many others that we could tackle. But right now when we return from the district work period we are prepared to submit the discharge petition for the minimum wage,” conference chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said.
“They’ll get a chance, and they’ll get a chance in a relatively near future. We believe the minimum wage, we have been talking about the economy, we have been talking about the economy working for everyone,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) added.
Hoyer said they aren’t “ever confident that we’re going to get 18 Republicans” on the minimum wage bill discharge petition, “but we apparently have 30 or 40 that are known over here. So, perhaps things have changed. But I will tell you this. Our expectation is, if they want to make sure that working people have an incentive to work, they will pay them to do so a wage that does not leave them in poverty.”
He said the “overwhelming majority” of Democrats are expected to sign it.
“We haven’t talked to everybody, so I don’t want to commit everybody. But we certainly presume that it will be very close to everybody,” Hoyer said.
“When you talked about 50 members on the Republican side who have talked about possibly supporting the immigration reform bill, of course, you know, talk is one thing. Actually doing something is another. And I’m sure they’ll have a chance between now and November to let their constituents know whether they’re serious on immigration reform — the comprehensive one — or not,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Many have said to their constituents that on the minimum wage proposals, that they’re open to it. So, now let’s find out just how open they are.”
“If there is a Republican who will not sign this discharge petition because they argue that the economy cannot afford an increase in the minimum wage, people are going to want to know why that same Republican continues to vote for a minimum subsidy for big oil companies of $40 billion every 10 years,” added Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.