Bloggers are focused on an obscure House of Representatives rule known as “Deem and Pass“ (also called the “Slaughter Solution” after Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter or the “self-executing” rule) that would theoretically allow Democrats to pass the Senate bill without voting on it.
TPMDC’s Christina Bellatoni reports that House Democrats are being instructed to remain mum: “Rank-and-file members are being told not to engage with Republicans on debates about process. Democratic leadership sent members a memo obtained by TPMDC warning that procedural tactics are “inside baseball” and defending against them won’t help them politically”.
The American Spectator’s Philip Klein critiques comments from House Majority Whip James Clyburn on the “Slaughter Solution”: “For one thing, yes, a health care bill passed the Senate with 60 votes, and a health care bill passed the House with 220 votes. But they’re two different bills, and the same exact bill has to pass both chambers to be signed into law.”
Reason’s Peter Suderman isn’t impressed with the strategy’s politics: “In other words, legislators will still have to cast a vote for the passage of the original Senate bill. And what’s more, they’ll do so using a complicated procedure that makes it look as if they are trying to hide their votes. Politically, this seems like a far worse option, especially considering how much negative attention has already been paid to the deal-making, gimmicks, and procedural complexities of the health reform process.”
Cato’s Michael Cannon asks if the House passes the bill using tactic, “are we under any obligation to obey it? The answer may be no.” Cannon points to a WSJ op-ed by a former federal circuit court judge, who argued “passage of one bill cannot be deemed to be enactment of another.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein responds to criticism of the rule and calls for a change:
Congress needs to decide how the place is going to be run and then rewrite the rulebook so that it actually works that way. … Unprecedented use of the filibuster will trigger unprecedented reliance on reconciliation. Unprecedented gridlock in the Senate will lead to unprecedented efforts by the House to protect itself from Senate failure. But you can’t pick and choose. Either unprecedented use of the rules is a problem or it isn’t. But if it is, then you have to be upset about the filibuster. And if it isn’t, then you can’t be upset when the rules are manipulated by both sides. Congress can work by the letter of its laws or by the spirit of their intent, but it’s got to be one or the other.
But The Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Slaughter signed amicus briefs to the District Court lawsuit challenging the use of the “deem and pass” rule in 2005. Tapscott concludes times are different than 2005, saying, “to place the American private health care system under government control — effectively socializing one-sixth of the U.S. economy — that has never been done before.”