House Democrats plan to begin a formal effort Tuesday to force the entire chamber to vote on extending tax cuts for everyone but the wealthy.
They will be circulating a "discharge petition," a device that bypasses normal channels and requires legislation to be considered by the full House. Such efforts rarely succeed, since lawmakers can refuse to sign it and cite a need to go through that regular process.
But Democrats think they have Republicans in a political box. Refusing to sign the petition, they plan to argue, signifies that a member of Congress is against keeping Bush-era tax cuts for indviduals earning less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000.
The Bush-era cuts, originally enacted in 2001 and 2003, expire at the end of this year. President Barack Obama and most Democrats want them retained for all but the wealthy. Top rates, now 33 and 35 percent, would revert to 36 and 39.6 percent.
The Senate in July approved the Obama plan on a largely party line vote, but the Republican-dominated House has refused to go along.
So Democrats will try to force them. It's an uphill climb--218 signatures are needed, and there are 192 Democrats. The idea that 26 Republicans will buck their party leadership seems remote.
But, said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., "there may be 10 people" opposed to keeping current rates for the less wealthy.
"Is this realistic?" he asked. "The American public expects us to act when we're in agreement."