Here’s that discharge petition that Tim Walz put together in an attempt to bring the Senate-passed tax bill to the House floor, the one that extends Bush-era tax rates on the first $250,000 of income. Right now it has the support of 178 Democrats and no Republicans.

It’s a chore figuring out which 13 Democrats don’t support the discharge petition, but it seems like a formality to me. If Heath Shuler and Dan Boren can sign it, pretty much any Democrat can. The House site where this lives looks to be a day behind, anyway.

The key statistic would be the zero (0) Republicans signing on. I have to expect that unblemished record to continue. There’s simply no advantage in defying leadership on this. Maybe a couple lame ducks who support extending the tax rates on the first $250,000, who already have post-Congress work lined up, will take a chance, but I doubt it. John Boehner, through his actions purging dissident caucus members, has locked down the House Republicans. They’re not going off the reservation.

That doesn’t make the discharge petition a useless document. Democrats can still wave it around and explain that they’re 20 or 30-odd votes away from ending this showdown. Certainly they’re getting backup from the White House. Tim Geithner confirmed yesterday that there will be no agreement without an increase in rates on the top 2%. This has been said in enough formats and enough ways that I tend to believe it. Certainly Republicans have not yet attempted to put the President in a bind, where he has to choose between something he wants – stimulus, for example, or the extension of unemployment benefits – and the tax rates. There has been no public effort, anyway, to make that trade.

The White House has managed to enlist corporate CEOs and other members of the top 2% to endorse tax hikes:

On Tuesday, FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, said that the notion that tax hikes on the richest Americans would kill jobs was simply “mythology.”

And on Monday, a gathering of the nation’s top defense executives took a surprising turn when they endorsed tax rate increases on the wealthy and cuts of up to $150 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Top executives from Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, TASC and RTI International Metals appeared at the National Press Club at an event organized by the Aerospace Industries Association, the top defense contractor lobbyist.

David Langstaff, CEO of TASC, said that the executives were speaking out because so far leaders of the defense industry were “talking a good game, but are still unwilling to park short-term self-interest.” After the event, he told a defense reporter for Politico that tax rates need to go up.

The statement from defense officials and contractors on military cuts is really pretty significant, to me.

Of course, Republicans have that ace up their sleeve in the form of the debt limit. The President vowed not to “play that game,” but it’s unclear what that really means. Perhaps he’ll trot out some of the more novel legal constructions to put the whole debt limit problem to bed.

Photo by Tom Jenssen under Creative Commons license.