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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Now It's "Amend Then Pass"

"Deem and Pass" is dead. There will be an up or down vote on the Senate bill in the House.

But not until the House passes amendments to the Senate bill before it passes the Senate bill:

House leaders have decided to take a separate vote on the Senate health-care bill, rejecting an earlier, much-criticized strategy that would have permitted them to "deem" the unpopular measure passed without an explicit vote.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Saturday that the House would take three votes Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.

Van Hollen, who has been working on the issue with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House leaders concluded that that order -- approving the amendments before approving the Senate bill -- makes clear that the House intends to modify the Senate bill and not approve the Senate bill itself.

The House is getting the Senate bill, because the amendments will be the subject of trench warfare in the Senate under the reconciliation process.

Obama will sign the Senate bill, then move on to other things.

This is and always has been word games.

Any House member who votes for the Senate bill will have to live with the consequences of forcing the country to live with the Senate bill.

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  1. House Dems seem to be confused about just how much Americans hate this thing. "I voted to tweak it before I passed it - it's the Senate's fault that it didn't get tweaked!" is not likely to save them their political hides or make people like the thing any better. Amended or no, passing this beast is political cyanide to anyone voting 'yes'.

    Time to invest in some bullion, I guess.

  2. I believe that Pelosi's decision to not use "Deem" means she has the votes for a straight up approval on the Senate bill, barring last minute surprises.

  3. Yep! Per my comment in the thread just below, Byron York has updated his post as follows:

    . . .
    But Democrats are apparently determined to vote for their package of amendments to the Senate bill before they vote for the bill itself. (They remain terrified of voting for the deal-laden Senate measure without having already voted to "fix" it.) That plan still runs afoul of the second Republican objection, which is that the House cannot vote to amend a law that isn't a law. The Senate national health care bill can only become law after it is passed by the House and signed by the president, and without the president's signature, it isn't law. Republicans argue that the House cannot amend a law that isn't yet law.
    . . . .

    Which seems to raise an interesting question, Professor. Does this not now effectively end reconciliation?

    After all, if the bill becomes a law only when the President signs it, does the process of adoption of legislation not thereupon begin anew, regardless of when the House chose to adopt amendments -- before or after adoption?

    The only way I could think of that they could have inextricably bound their House amendments to this Senate legislation would have been by including some sort of linking provision, a "tie bar" of sorts -- say, something along the lines of:

    Notwithstanding the adoption of P.L. ______, now pending before the Congress as S. _____, none of the provisions therein shall take effect until the passage and adoption of the amendatory provisions contained herein.

    But, of course, there is no guarantee that any such provision would be constitutional -- how can you have a "conditional" adoption? And, the same language would have had to be included in the Senate version as well.

    In recent years, similar language in New Jersey legislation has been used to get around the state constitutional requirement that "every law shall embrace but one object", but I am not sure that anyone has even challenged the state constitutionality of such provisions.

    Right now, it looks to me like the members of the House Democrat caucus just fell for the old "bait and-switch" routine, foisted on them by none other than their own leadership!

    Either that, or they realize that their leadership is so dopey that they just led them all right into a big fat trap.

    Whoa! I think if I were a member of that caucus, I'd be mighty irritated! Many of them no doubt feel that they have had to vote on two different bad bills just to get to vote on a version they may be able to live with.

    Try to explain that to your constituents!

    Plus, many of them will never get to vote on the one they really want -- the public option!

  4. Trackback: http://republicanheretic.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/deem-and-pass-dead/

  5. Also, I'd like to say I called it . . . which I actually did the other day, when I posted here that it was a diversion, calling it "chum in the water."

    But to be honest, in the last day or so I began thinking she might be stubborn enough to try and ram it this way, thinking it would somehow "protect" her caucus.

    MikeT suggests, above, that this shows that she has the votes to pass it without the use of deem-and-pass. Perhaps. But I think it's more than that.

    Over the past few days there has been a considerable amount of critical reporting on the tactic. One thing is for certain. The Democrats have no doubt done some polling on the public's reaction. I'll bet that they got some results that scared them, and that was what put them over the edge.

    Think about it. That Washington Post headline alone was enough to leave a mark -- this one!

    "House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it."

    And their editorial against it didn't help, either. Here's betting we'll see a national poll within the next few days, with a considerable majority of respondents weighing in against the employment of the tactic.

  6. "many of them will never get to vote on the one they really want -- the public option!"

    Not yet. Just wait a minute or two.

  7. Moogie P,

    Heh! Way too much to hope for, I'm afraid.

    But . . . here's hoping they post it!