WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered her own way to break the apparent stalemate over the so-called fiscal cliff -- by taking matters out of House Speaker John Boehner's hands. She pointed out Friday that the Senate already passed a bill in July that would accomplish President Barack Obama's goal by extending lower tax rates for the middle class but not the wealthy.
Pelosi called on House Republican leadership to bring that legislation to the floor next week and threatened that if they do not schedule a vote on the Senate bill, Democrats will file what's known as a discharge petition on Tuesday to force a vote on the measure in her chamber. If Democrats successfully obtain 218 signatures on the discharge petition, it would automatically force the middle income tax cut bill to the floor for a vote.
"We believe that not [bringing the Senate bill to the floor] would be holding middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich," Pelosi said. "Tax cuts for the rich which do not create jobs, just increase the deficit, heaping mountains of debt onto future generations."
"This is really very important," she added, noting that the middle income tax cut extension is just one piece of what needs to be done before the holidays.
"The other part of it of course is to avoid going over the fiscal cliff," she continued. "You've heard much said about what happens if we do. Let's dwell instead on what happens if we do not go over the cliff. There's so much confidence that will go forth to the markets, to consumers, so much good that can come of it in terms of growing the economy to create jobs."
Pelosi recognized that in order for a discharge petition to be successful, Democrats would need the support of some House Republicans. She noted that some GOP members have opened up to the idea of decoupling the Bush era tax cuts and extending just those for the middle class and not the wealthy. But when asked if any of those Republicans had told her they would sign a discharge petition, Pelosi said they had not.
Earlier in the day, Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill that negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over a deal to avert the fiscal cliff had essentially reached the point of a political gridlock.
"There's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves," Boehner said, noting that the White House had not offered a "serious proposal."
"And so right now we're almost nowhere," he added.
Pelosi did not agree with that assessment. "I hope not," she said, responding to Boehner's assertion that talks had come to a stalemate. "Maybe that's a figure of speech."