Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican from New York, talks on his way to a House Republican Conference meeting at the US Capitol on September 19, 2023 in Washington, DC.
CNN  — 

Some swing district Republican lawmakers are signaling they could cross the aisle and work with Democrats to try to avert or shorten a looming government shutdown, as the House GOP conference struggles to coalesce around a negotiated spending bill of their own that would fund the government for a month.

Democrats and Republicans could use an arcane procedural step known as a “discharge petition” to force the vote on a clean spending bill on the floor, in effect shielding House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from having to do it himself.

But Democrats are warning that if Republicans are serious, they’d need to take action as soon as Tuesday and even that would not likely be fast enough to avert a shutdown.

A Democratic source told CNN that the process for forcing a floor vote on a bipartisan continuing resolution would go as follows (even as Democrats are not confident at this point enough Republicans are serious about pursuing the option and they are not holding out much hope this is a serious option):

  1. The source told CNN that there is already a legislative vehicle on the floor of the House from when it was filed during the debt ceiling that could be amended to fund the government, but five Republicans would have to sign on.
  2. Once that happened, it would ripen the following legislative day and it would take seven legislative days (days in the House is in session, not days of the week) before action could be taken on it. Then, someone would have to raise it on the floor and the speaker would be forced to schedule a vote within two legislative days.
  3. It’s possible that leadership could try to kill this move in the Rules Committee, but if they passed a rule to kill it, the rule would need to get a majority on the floor.

One rules expert warned that “it is viable but it is not something that works well with a deadline that is so many days away.” Government funding is slated to run out on September 30.

Still, it may be one way out if things fell apart, a shutdown started and a handful of Republicans from swing districts signed on.

The last time a discharge petition was used was in 2015 on legislation surrounding the import/export bank.

Who would sign onto a discharge petition?

The Democratic caucus has alrea