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House Dems Attempt to Force Vote on Independent Russia Commission

by Countable | 5.17.17

House Democrats will use an obscure legislative procedure known as a discharge petition on Wednesday to try to force a vote on a bill that would create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Unless more Republicans are persuaded to join calls for an independent commission, the longshot tactic is the best chance Democrats have to bring such a bill up for a vote in Congress.

What’s a discharge petition?

Discharge petitions are the legislative equivalent of the "Advance to GO, Collect $200" Monopoly card — they allow a bill to skip past hearings, committee votes, Ventnor Avenue, and all the rest on the way to a final vote on passage. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have discharge petitions at their disposal, though the process works a little differently in each chamber of Congress.

In the House, a discharge petition can only be filed if the bill it pertains to has been idle for 30 legislative days, at which point supporters must gather the signatures of a majority of House members (218 normally but 216 now due to vacancies) in order to force the committee to release the bill. If supporters have met that signature threshold, and the committee doesn’t act within seven days, then the bill can be brought to the House floor for a vote.

Things get a little more complex in the Senate, where discharge petitions can be used for normal bills in addition to executive branch and judicial nominations (like for a Supreme Court vacancy). Legislation that’s the focus of a discharge petition can still be blocked by the filibuster, so supporters must have the backing of at least 60 Senators in the process to prevent it from being stopped.

What does the bill do?

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-CA) Protecting Our Democracy Act, the bill that would be brought up for consideration if the discharge petition is successful, is pretty straightforward.

It would create an independent, 12-member commission similar to the one created after the 9/11 attacks that’d have the ability to interview witnesses, get documents, issue subpoenas, and hear public testimony. Once its investigation is complete, the commission would provide Congress and the president with a final report offering recommendations within 18 months of the bill’s enactment.

The commission would be made up of prominent U.S. citizens who’ve worked with distinction in government, law enforcement, the military, law, intelligence, elections, foreign affairs, and cybersecurity. No federal officials or employees would be eligible to participate, and members would be chosen by congressional leadership from both parties.

Will it work?

It’s pretty unlikely, as it needs 216 supporters to get a majority in the House and only 200 lawmakers have announced their support for it. That being said, if more Republicans join their two colleagues who’ve cosponsored the Protecting Our Democracy Act it just might have a chance to reach the floor.

If it works, it'd be only the fourth time in the modern era that a discharge petition has been successfully used. Discharge petitions were used to approve a gun-rights bill backed by the NRA in 1986, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill in 2002, and by the House in 2015 in an early attempt to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

Tell your reps whether they should support the discharge petition and the Protecting Our Democracy Act using the "Take Action" button.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: DOD Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(618)
  • Buffalo
    05/17/2017
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    Impeach. Obstruction of justice. Get a clue congress. Throw off the shackles of your corporate owners.

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  • Karen
    05/17/2017
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    The Federal Government needs to STOP taking any actions whatsoever until the legitimacy of this Administration is determined. How many laws have been enacted by individuals who may be found guilty of treason or collusion?

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  • Carol
    05/17/2017
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    Independent investigation into Trump/Russian ties and obstruction of justice!

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  • Kevin
    05/17/2017
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    It's time to impeach and conduct a non-partisan investigation.

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  • OlderNWiser
    05/17/2017
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    An independent commission to investigate the Russian ties seems imperative to me. Too many questions remain about what was done, how, and when; and the behavior of this administration with Russians is profoundly suspicious and alarming. I wonder if the POTUS tax returns can be subpoenaed to reveal Russian ties, as well as his LLC ties? Thank you for your work for the people.

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  • Chip
    05/17/2017
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    Please do whatever it takes to make sure that this matter is investigated fully by an independent source.

    Like (54)
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  • Chrissy
    05/17/2017
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    It's time to forget about party affiliation and do what is right. We need an independent committee to review the facts!

    Like (47)
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  • Nathan
    05/17/2017
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    Please support an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia or I will not be voting for you in 2018.

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  • JudyB
    05/17/2017
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    Yes! We need an investigation that is independent and will get to the truth! My fellow Republicans, please stop blindly following this fool.

    Like (37)
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  • Cyr
    05/17/2017
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    Republicans are party over country. Is that how you make America great again?

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  • Rebecca
    05/17/2017
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    I strongly urge you to support this measure. We need a clear, unbiased, picture of what has happened here that is not subject to intimidation or firing!

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  • Jane
    05/17/2017
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    Only a very carefully selected independent source could possibly get to the root of what is going on. You owe that to us. You work for us. You owe allegiance to the Constitution, not to a party, or an individual, or a corporate interest, or to your own self-interest. Please do the right thing.

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  • Christopher
    05/17/2017
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    This must be done. We are in a constitutional crisis and the very fate of our democracy hangs in the balance.

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  • Kathy
    05/17/2017
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    we need to force an independent investigation and i fully support the democrats and a few patriotic republicans. what is wrong with congress , they look subservient or complicit . DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!!

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  • Leslie
    05/17/2017
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    Please support an independent commission to investigate the Trump administration and its possible ties with Russia. There is a crisis of legitimacy that cannot be defused except by this action. Please do not dismiss your centrist constituency as "liberal fringe" when we are asking for this. I think you will find that my demographic will not soon forget the level of dismissiveness that the GOP has treated us and our concerns with. Shape up or we will ship you out in 2018.

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  • John
    05/17/2017
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    I strongly support an independent bi-partisan investigation of Pres. Trump's dealings with Russia. I sent this message to my rep via @countable, posted on Twitter and called Congressman Pete Sessions office today to voice my opinion.

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  • Lisa
    05/17/2017
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    Thank you for standing up for the people!!!!! Let's get to the facts! Special prosecutor and independent commission NOW!!!

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  • PamB
    05/17/2017
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    Stop dragging your feet!!! Get a credible, non-partisan investigation underway NOW!!!!! Get the facts and MOVE ON THEM! It's a shame that you continue to deny that something smells fishy.

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  • Dan
    05/17/2017
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    Okay Republicans, if you don't vote YAY for this, America is going to vote NAY on you in 2018. It's on you!

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  • Valerie
    05/17/2017
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    An independent investigation into Russian interference with our election is the only rational thing to do at this point. Clearly there is something to hide and allowing the president to control this investigation is not going to reveal what that is. Please do your job representing us and do everything in your power to get an independent investigation into this issue started.

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