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Dems plan discharge petition to force vote on ending shutdown

House Democratic leaders will begin circulating a discharge petition Friday in hopes of forcing a vote on a "clean" spending bill.

GOP leaders have so far refused to stage a vote on the Senate-passed continuing resolution (CR), insisting that the measure also include conservative provisions scaling back President Obama's healthcare law.

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But with more than 20 centrist Republicans indicating support for a clean CR, the Democrats are hoping they can attract the 218 signatures required to force such of vote.

The Democrats' gambit is a long-shot, however, as there's no indication that those centrist Republicans would poke their leadership even further by signing the discharge petition. 

Indeed, those Republicans have sided with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a series of votes this week to fund the government with piecemeal bills – a strategy rejected by Obama and the Democrats.

Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) launched their discharge-petition effort Friday after an afternoon meeting in the Capitol, where the Democratic Caucus huddled with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to discuss the party's shutdown strategy.

"It is very unfortunate that the majority of the House has not been allowed to freely cast its vote to reopen the government," Miller said. "But one thing [that's] becoming clearer is that, as the shutdown drags on, a growing number of Republican members of Congress want the opportunity to work with Democrats to end this crisis."

Under their petition strategy, Miller said, the House could vote on a clean CR on Oct. 14, at the earliest.

The Democrats had initially thought the discharge petition option was unavailable, because a bill must be at least 30 legislative days old before it can be subject to such a drive. But the Democrats have located a GOP bill introduced in March that serves the same purpose as the Senate-passed CR.

Sponsored by Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), head of the Republican Policy Committee, the bill would create "an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year," according to Lankford's release.

The Democrats don't intend to pass the Lankford bill, but just to use it as a vehicle to pass the Senate's CR.

"We will have a complete substitute for that language which will be a clean continuing resolution to open up the government," Miller said.

Asked how he expects to get the 218 signatures needed to discharge the Lankford bill, Miller was terse.

"You round 'em up," he said.

This story was updated at 3:01 p.m.



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