At his weekly briefing with reporters, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer made clear that Democratic leaders were aware of the tactic, which was first written about by Roll Call, but wouldn't say whether they planned to use it. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to comment, referring instead to Pelosi's statement from last week, in which she wrote in a letter to her members urging them to vote for a one-week continuing resolution, "Your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week."
Many Democrats took that to mean that Boehner had promised Pelosi a vote on the Senate-passed DHS bill. But Boehner said on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, "The promise I made to Ms. Pelosi is the same promise I made to Republicans, that we follow regular order."
If leaders are relying on the obscure rule to get them out of the impasse, both Pelosi's and Boehner's statements could be technically true. But it remains unclear whether that is the case and whether members will allow it. Conservative members, who do not want a funding bill to pass without a measure rolling back President Obama's executive actions on immigration, are studying the rule. Centrist members too are wondering whether it would work.
And Republican leaders may end up deciding that, if a clean DHS bill has to pass, it would be better for internal conference relations to do it following "regular order"—as Boehner likes to emphasize—rather than via a procedural tactic that could be painted as sneaky or underhanded.
To prevent that, Boehner and his leaders could suspend the rule. They did exactly that ahead of the 2013 government shutdown, which caused Rep. Chris Van Hollen to take to the floor and blast GOP leaders while trying to invoke the rule to call for a vote on a bill that would have averted the shutdown. To block the provision from being invoked, however, leaders likely would have to pass a rule on the House floor, and with centrist members extremely frustrated at their hardline colleagues over the impasse, it is not clear leaders would have the votes.
Rep. Steve King warned in a release Monday that Democrats "are poised to take control of the floor and fund executive amnesty. A House Resolution can stop it, if we amend Rule XXII."
King said he had drafted a resolution to block the maneuver, adding: "A single clause in a rule we have the power to change is not an excuse to fund lawlessness. This is only a trap if we fail to act. Leadership's back is not against the wall unless they choose it to be."
The House has no plans to be in session Friday, meaning the DHS bill is likely to be voted on Thursday. The House is in recess next week, so the pressure of staying through a district work period may encourage members to put aside their differences and pass a bill. Also motivating lawmakers toward a quick solution: Rep. John Lewis is hosting scores of members, both Republicans and Democrats, for the 50th anniversary of the march on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Ala. The delegation is slated to leave Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.
This story has been updated.