Baird, Minnick want colleagues to sign discharge petition, force floor vote

Both have signed on to a “Dear Colleague” letter with GOP Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.) and John Culberson (Texas) that asks other lawmakers to support the discharge petition.

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Baird said that he did not consult his leadership before initiating the discharge effort.

If the petition attracts 218 signatures, it would pave the way for a floor vote on legislation that would change House rules to require that bills be posted online for 72 hours before the lower chamber votes on them.

It is rare for a lawmaker of the majority party to sign on to a discharge petition, usually only happening several times in each Congress.

Democratic leaders strongly frown on members signing the petitions, which rarely attract 218 signatories.

House Republicans on Wednesday hailed the news of Baird and Minnick endorsing their effort, which was formally launched by Walden.

Across the Capitol in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, Republicans were pushing for a 72-hour waiting period before a panel vote on healthcare reform. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) called the GOP amendment, which also called for a Congressional Budget Office estimate, a delay tactic. GOP legislators on the Finance panel noted that they have not seen final legislative text on parts of the pending healthcare reform bill.

Over the last decade, both Republicans and Democrats have rammed legislation through both chambers before it could be read. Earlier this year, Republicans pointed out that no member could have read the final stimulus bill before it went to a roll call.

The House “Dear Colleague” letter states, “During the August district work period, Americans made it emphatically clear that they expect their representatives in Congress to read and understand the legislation they are voting on. The public is fed up with the status quo. And many of our colleagues are, too.”

Baird was an original co-sponsor of the transparency legislation with John Culberson. The two introduced the bill in June, arguing it was intended to ensure that members have enough time to read through complicated bills before they vote.

The bill has 98 co-sponsors, including some Democrats. The discharge petition at press time had 104 signatures. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who signed a discharge petition to force action on a border security measure in the last Congress, is a co-sponsor of the Culberson-Baird measure.

According to lawmakers sitting on the floor during votes on Wednesday, Baird approached freshman Democrats in swing districts for support.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) said that his leadership team was “not going to be happy” that Baird and Minnick have spearheaded the effort.

“Obviously, leadership of the caucus doesn’t want to be boxed into that situation,” Pastor said.
Minnick is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democrats in 2010. Baird is seen as less so; he won his district with 64 percent of the vote in 2008.

This is not the first time Minnick and Baird have defied their leaders. In 2007, Baird said the troop surge in Iraq was working. And earlier this year, Minnick voted against climate change legislation touted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).