WASHINGTON — The sponsors of the STOCK Act, a bill to ban lawmakers from using nonpublic information they receive in their official capacities to profit off of the stock market, will use a rarely successful procedural maneuver called a “discharge petition” to try forcing the House of Representatives to vote on the bill.
Rep. Tim Walz, a Minnesota Democrat who is the author of the bill, announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon as the Senate was debating its version of the STOCK Act. The Senate voted 93-2 to consider the bill on Monday and President Barack Obama has said he supports it. The House bill version has 271 co-sponsors, more than enough to pass the bill.
It’s rare for lawmakers to file a discharge petition, and rarer still for one to work. A majority of the House, 218 members, must publicly sign a discharge petition before it takes effect, dislodging a bill from committee consideration and bringing it directly to the floor for debate and a vote. The last successful discharge petition came in 2002; two introduced this Congress have so far fallen well short of passage.
Discharge petitions are commonly used when leadership or committee chairs refuse to consider or vote on a bill. Because they require the support of the majority of the House, it’s usually unnecessary for the majority to use a discharge petition to bring up legislation; if a party has enough votes in its caucus to pass a bill, leadership is usually willing to bring it to a vote.
But Democrats have spearheaded the STOCK Act, and though nearly 100 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, the bill’s original proponents, like Walz and fellow sponsor Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York , said they’re frustrated that it hasn’t progressed faster than it has.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Tuesday that he wants a stronger bill than the one under consideration in the Senate, and that if the Senate didn’t modify it, specifically by extending it to cover members of the executive branch, the House would. Cantor said he is aiming to bring the bill to the floor in February.
Walz said the petition will be formally introduced this evening.