Walz pushes petition to force tax cut vote

WASHINGTON – As negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans intensify over how to resolve the fiscal cliff, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is trying to turn up the pressure on Republicans.

He brought a discharge petition to the floor of the House Tuesday that would force a vote on a Senate bill that keeps tax rates lower for everyone making $250,000 or less while allowing the top tax brackets to revert to rates last seen in 2001.

“Let’s focus on what we agree on, not what disagree on. Let’s find common ground,” said Walz in a speech, emphasizing that both parties agreed tax rates should stay lower on the middle class.

Republican leaders in the House have blocked the Senate bill until now, but with tax hikes for all Americans looming, Walz believed some Republicans might be tempted to sign on.

Such petitions are the only way for the minority party in the House to get their bills onto the floor without the consent of the majority party’s leadership but require at least 218 signatures to work. Democrats currently hold 190 House seats.

Past discharge petitions have rarely succeeded, though Walz was able to use the threat of a petition earlier this year to get a floor vote on a congressional ethics measure he supported. That bill, the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act, was later signed into law by President Obama.