WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., offered a long-shot option Thursday to revive the moribund effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws that would require the support of more than a dozen House Republicans — and, if nothing else, pressure others to act on an election-year issue that tea party-aligned members strongly oppose.
The legislative maneuver, known as a discharge petition, would allow supporters of overhauling the nation's immigration laws to circumvent the Republican majority in the House by bringing the measure directly to the House floor, bypassing the regular committee process. It is a rarely successful tactic, though it was used in 2002 to eventually win passage of a major campaign finance law.
Schumer, who was one of the architects of a broad-based rewriting of immigration laws that passed the Senate in June, accused House Republicans of trying to "sweep this issue under the rug," and added, "In the next few months you're going to see increased pressure, and the discharge petition is one such way."
Lawmakers and aides in both parties say a discharge petition, especially one coming from Schumer, whose views are strongly opposed by many House conservatives, is unlikely to succeed. Even if all House Democrats supported the measure, it would still require more than a dozen Republican signatures.
"Discharge petitions are difficult, but when they work, it's because there's a clear majority of the body that supports a specific proposal, and in this case, that is true," Schumer said. "But I have no illusions that this will be easy in any way."