Jeffries signals he’s open to using discharge petition to force vote on foreign aid

As the Senate lurches forward on a national security funding package, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he’ll use “every available legislative tool” to get such legislation on the House floor.

It’s an unsubtle nod to the discharge petition, which Democrats could theoretically use to force a floor vote if Speaker Mike Johnson declines to take up the legislation. However, it requires a majority of House members to sign on to the petition, which means at least a handful of Republicans would have to sign on to give it teeth.

“House Democrats are prepared to use every available legislative tool to make sure we get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line,” Jeffries said in a statement while House Democrats gathered at their yearly issues conference in Leesburg, Virginia.

The Senate is hoping to pass a foreign aid supplemental spending package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without border security measures, overcoming a key hurdle Thursday, though senators are still negotiating the terms. Johnson did not immediately respond to POLITICO’s request for comment on the latest package in the Senate.

Jeffries called on Johnson to “move to consider parallel national security legislation immediately.”

If Johnson declines to take it up, then Democrats’ main tool to force action is the discharge petition. It’s unclear if any Republicans would sign to one, however; centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) didn’t close the door to the possibility when asked on Thursday.

“I know we need to get aid to Israel quickly, and it’s in our national security interests to keep Ukraine independent and help Ukrainians defeat Russia’s barbaric invasion by sending them military weapons. I’ll work with the likeminded folks and the Speaker to determine what is best way to move forward,” Bacon said.

Others in Democratic leadership are ready to move, too. California Rep. Ted Lieu, the vice-chair of the Democratic caucus, said it was up to Jeffries but “I personally support (a discharge petition).”

“We are open to all of the possibilities,” echoed Rep. Ann Kuster, chair of the New Democratic Coalition. “Our members want to vote on that bill and we’re ready to put up the votes now.”

When asked if Democrats were talking to Republicans about how to address the supplemental, including if any would sign on to a discharge petition, Kuster responded: “Those conversations are happening.”

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.