House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has announced that House Democrats have taken a key procedural step that could be used to bypass House Republican leadership and enable Democrats to attempt to force a vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to a new letter obtained by CNN.
The move is the next step House Democrats need to take to preserve all of their options as lawmakers stare down a June 1 deadline of potential default if Congress doesn’t act to address the debt limit before then.
The procedural step could be used to bring up a discharge petition to address the debt limit, but Democrats would need Republican support for the step to go into effect and it’s unclear how much exists.
A discharge petition can be used to force a floor vote, but only if a majority of House members sign on in support. It’s difficult for discharge petitions to succeed because of the high threshold that must be cleared.
213 House Democrats would need the support of five Republicans. But already a number of swing district GOP lawmakers are making clear they don’t support Jeffries’ effort.
Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who represents a district that President Joe Biden carried in 2020, told CNN on Tuesday he has “No appetite for a ‘my way or the highway’ stance of Biden and Jeffries.”
“In a divided government, people who want to govern, sit down and find some middle ground,” Bacon said.
GOP Rep. Mike Lawler of New York, who also represents a Biden-won district, echoed that message, telling CNN that Democrats’ refusal to negotiate amounts to “putting the full faith and credit of our nation at risk.”
Rep. David Valadao of California, another swing district Republican, also told CNN that he would not support a Democratic discharge petition on a clean debt ceiling hike.
The discharge petition addressing the debt ceiling would be packaged as an amendment to a bill from Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, legislation that has already been filed with various committees of jurisdiction.
“House Democrats are working to make sure we have all options at our disposal to avoid a default,” Jeffries wrote in a dear colleague letter obtained by CNN. “At the beginning of the 118th Congress, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, working with leadership, introduced legislation that could be used as a vehicle to avert the Republican-manufactured default crisis.”
“The filing of a debt ceiling measure to be brought up on the discharge calendar preserves an important option,” the minority leader added.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Don Bacon represents Nebraska in the US House of Representatives.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.