House Republicans officially launched their effort to force a vote on a high-profile anti-infanticide bill Tuesday, while calling for a national effort to pressure Democrats to their side.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) introduced what's known as a discharge petition on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to force members of the lower chamber to show the American people where they stand on the issue of infanticide.
Previously, House Democrats have blocked more than two dozen Republican efforts to bring the bill to the floor. A discharge petition is an end run around the majority party's power to dictate the floor schedule and bring a bill up for debate and a vote without leadership's consent.
The key challenge to this strategy is that collecting 218 signatures will mean courting 21 Democrats, when only three of the party's current House members broke ranks for a pro-life vote last session.
However, Scalise says that he was ready for this challenge.
"We need to get to 218, so it's going to take a national effort," Scalise said at a Tuesday morning news conference. "But the country's watching.
"People say it should be easy to get 218 signatures," the minority whip continued. "Frankly, it should be easy to get all 435 members of Congress to sign this, but it's not. In fact, It's going to be hard. We know it's an uphill battle."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pointed out that a successful petition would eliminate the ability of House members to "hide behind Democratic leadership" on the issue because "whoever was holding the gavel denied the ability for the bill to come up."
While more staunchly pro-abortion members of Congress from safely Democratic districts would have little problem voting against the bill politically, a floor vote on the issue would put members from more moderate districts — especially those that flipped to blue in November — in a much tougher position.
Tuesday morning, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) announced that he would sign the petition and urged his Democratic colleagues to break with their party and join him.
"Now, more than ever, the American people need clarification — where exactly does the Democratic Party stand on the issue of abortion? Are they really comfortable letting already born infants die?" a statement from Green's office said. "This is not a trifling matter."
Pro-life activists also attended Monday's news conference and similarly urged House members to get the bill to the floor while excoriating Democratic leaders for blocking it.
"Shame on Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for repeatedly refusing to allow a vote on this compassionate, common-ground bill," Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.
"Democratic Party leaders have doubled down on extremism," Dannenfelser added. "Their agenda is radically out of step even within their own rank and file … the American people deserve to know where their representatives stand on infanticide."