House Democrats petition for a vote on tax-cut extension


Looking to break the “fiscal cliff” gridlock, House Democrats are attempting to use a “discharge petition,” a little-known procedural move, to get around Speaker John A. Boehner and force a House vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone except individuals making $200,000 and more and couples making $250,000.

Such a vote would give Republicans who want to abandon the speaker and the GOP “no-higher-tax-rates” position a chance to buck party leaders and cut their own deal with Democrats to avert the “fiscal cliff” — the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect in January.

No Republicans have signed or said they would sign the petition, but Democrats are optimistic they can find more than two dozen GOP lawmakers needed to send the stalled bill to the floor for a vote — especially if negotiations between the president and Mr. Boehner remain stalled.

“The discharge petition, while we do want to get it to the [House] floor, it can also be a catalyst to move people,” said Rep. Timothy J. Walz, a Minnesota Democrat who filed the petition on behalf of his party. “It sends a signal to [House Speaker John A.] Boehner that, if he gets a few of his members on it, it maybe frees him up for a little bit of negotiating.”

The petition calls for House action on a bill that passed the Democrat-controlled Senate this year that would keep George W. Bush-era tax cuts in place for individuals earning up to $200,000 and couples making up to $250,000. For those earning more — about 2 percent of taxpayers — the tax breaks would expire as scheduled in January.

Republicans have expressed little interest in the measure and say they want the tax breaks extended to all income levels.