Washington (CNN) – Hoping to galvanize attention on a hot issue in an election year, House Democrats will launch a formal petition on Wednesday aimed at forcing a vote on comprehensive immigration reform, according to multiple senior Democratic aides.
The legislative maneuver is called a "discharge petition" and has become the recent weapon of choice for Democrats in the congressional chamber where Republicans call the shots.
A discharge petition can force a vote on a piece of legislation if a majority of House members, or 218 of the 435 members, sign it.
No one expects Democrats to reach that mark, but Wednesday, they are clearly hoping to get some attention.
Lawmakers from the party will gather on the east steps of the U.S. Capitol to announce the petition and then walk en masse into the House chamber to file it, the aides told CNN.
The bill in this discharge petition is H.R. 15, which is similar to the measure passed by the Democratic controlled Senate last year in giving most undocumented immigrants a legal status and the possibility of citizenship. The Senate bill passed last June, but was quickly derided by House Republican leaders.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others in his leadership have stressed that they oppose a sweeping immigration bill in principle. Instead Boehner has said the issue should be tackled in smaller, separate bills, starting with a focus on border security and enforcement. Practically speaking, Republicans House leaders have yet to move any significant immigration bills forward this session.
Democrats are trying to breathe some life into the issue with the discharge petition. The bill Democrats will push Wednesday has a whopping 200 co-sponsors, but that seems to be the maximum support it can gather for the moment. And while three of those co-sponsors are Republicans, at least two of them will not sign the discharge petition. The offices of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, and Rep. David Valadao, R-California, told CNN the two Republicans cosponsors see the petition as a political move.
"He's very supportive of bringing the bill to the floor," said Valadao's communications director, Anna Raquel Vetter, "But a discharge petition is legislatively not productive… if they had 218 votes for the bill, this wouldn't be an issue."
This will be the third big-ticket item to garner a discharge effort from Democrats, following similar petitions on an increase in the minimum wage and an unemployment benefits extension. Those petitions each have just over 190 signatures.
CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report