Dems Newly-Favored Tactic To Advance Health Measure Draws GOP Rage
The latest strategy House Democratic leaders have considered for passing the health overhaul bill would allow lawmakers to approve a Senate-passed version of the bill without a direct vote, The Washington Post reports. Instead, a so-called "self-executing rule would say that the Senate's version of health-care legislation would be deemed approved if House members adopt a set of changes to that bill." The House would have to pass the rule, as well as a "reconciliation" bill to make the changes. Some legal scholars do not like this plan: "'I feel pretty confident it is unconstitutional,' said Michael W. McConnell, director of Stanford Law School's Constitutional Law Center and a former appellate judge appointed by President George W. Bush. 'What a court would do about it is a murkier problem'" (Goldstein, 3/17).
Los Angeles Times: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that "she had not decided on her legislative strategy for bringing the bill to a vote, but she did not rule out the controversial shortcut. 'We will do what is necessary,' she said." Republicans, who now decry the tactic, used it in 1996 "to enact a bill giving the president a line-item veto. The approach has been used by both parties to enact increases in the national debt ceiling -- an essential vote that politicians of both parties do not like to cast because it is seen as an endorsement of deficit spending" (Hook and Levey, 3/17).
McClatchy: In this case, the "maneuver would enable House members to avoid casting a politically risky vote on the Senate package, and to say they voted only for the more popular follow-up measure." An accompanying chart shows that Democrats used this tactic 49 times in the previous Congress. Republicans used it 36 times when they controlled the House in the Congress before that (Lightman, 3/15).
Yet, "Republicans say no bill or amendment has ever been deemed passed that related to an area affecting one-sixth of the economy as the health measure does," Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "today also tried to tie consideration of the approach to what he called the 'Cornhusker Kickback' and the 'Louisiana Purchase' -- the Medicaid carve-outs that helped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid line up enough support to clear the measure" (Litvan, 3/16).
The Christian Science Monitor: "On the House side, GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio announced today that Republicans plan to force a vote on a resolution requiring an up-or-down vote on the Senate health care bill. Even if the resolution fails, it will put Democrats on record in a way that can be used in 2010 election campaigns. 'It shows you just how controversial this government takeover of healthcare has become that it takes a controversial maneuver just to vote on it,' he said in a statement" (Chaddock, 3/16).
Politico: The procedural tactic has been dubbed the "Slaughter solution," after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who would be charged with crafting legislation that puts the Democrats' plan into action. Yet, some constitutional questions remain, despite its prior use. "No lawyer interviewed by POLITICO thought the constitutionality of the 'deem and pass' approach being considered by House Democrats was an open-and-shut case either way. But most agreed that it could raise constitutional issues sufficiently credible that the Supreme Court might get interested, as it has in the past" (Barbash, 3/16).