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Miller: Petition might be last option to avert ruin

An effort to force a House vote on a “clean” continuing resolution to re-open the federal government “may become the parachute that saves us from crashing” if other plans fall through in the next day or so, Rep. George Miller said Tuesday afternoon.

George MillerA plan for the House to vote Tuesday evening on a GOP proposal to raise the debt limit and reopen the government appears to be on the rocks. House Republicans appear split on whether to support it, and the Democrat-led Senate probably wouldn’t pass it anyway because it would fund the government only through mid-December and it’s predicated on a tweak to the national health insurance law.

Senate leaders had been inching toward a deal of their own Monday, but that was put on hold Tuesday pending the House vote. If the Senate can’t return to the bargaining table, that leaves little time before Thursday’s deadline – after which the government loses its ability to borrow and won’t be able to pay its bills, triggering chaos in the world’s financial markets.

Democrats on Oct. 4 announced they would start a discharge petition to force a vote on a clean continuing resolution, but due to procedural requirements, they couldn’t start gathering signatures until Saturday. As of Tuesday afternoon, 196 Democrats had signed but no Republicans; 218 signatures are needed to force a vote.

House Democrats have been pressing 30 specific Republicans – who have voiced their distaste for their party’s shutdown strategy and said they would vote for a clean CR – to sign the discharge petition.

“They have not (signed) yet – they’re in negotiations, and this is a very heavy lift to join a discharge petition against your own leadership,” Miller, D-Martinez, said Tuesday, but he’s convinced enough will sign if there’s no other way to avoid the impending fiscal disaster.

“We’re 48 hours away from having a dual image flash across the world: The United States government is shut down AND it’s about to default on its debt,” he said. “That is a catastrophic image for our country.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.