WASHINGTON -- Call it an escape valve, an off-ramp or a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option.
The political impasse surrounding the raising of the federal debt ceiling has many people on Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue looking to an arcane but rarely successful congressional procedure known as a "discharge petition" as a solution to avoid a catastrophic default.
A petition is exactly what it sounds like: a signed request, in this instance bearing the signatures a majority of members of the House. This can force a piece of legislation to be considered on the floor. The petition would ask for an increase in federal debt limits. This is a way to stave off disaster if House Republicans refused to agree to raising it before Treasury exhausts its legal authority of borrowing to pay creditors this summer.