The Spectacle Blog

Losing the PR Battle on the “Slaughter Solution”

By on 3.16.10 | 10:51AM

The whole point of Democrats using a House rule to "deem" the Senate health care bill passed without a direct vote is that it would help them avoid a vote on a bill that was tainted because of all of its provisions such as the "Cornhusker kickback." But it's hard to see how any of the following types of stories would be any better for them politically.

A McClatchy Newspapers story, which has been reprinted in several outlets, headlined: "House weighs unusual tactic to muscle health bill through" in the San Luis Obisbo Tribune, opens:

As the battle over health care legislation built Monday toward a weekend crescendo, congressional Democrats considered trying to pass the controversial Senate version without voting for it, a tactic that Republicans and independent analysts warned could be politically treacherous and perhaps unconstitutional.

The UPI story, titled "House may try to pass healthcare sans vote," begins:

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added a new twist to the healthcare debate, suggesting she may try to pass the bill without members actually voting on it.

And then there's the Washington Post. Here's a news story, titled, "House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it" (bold is my own):

After laying the groundwork for a decisive vote this week on the Senate's health-care bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday that she might attempt to pass the measure without having members vote on it.

Instead, Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers "deem" the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic-- known as a "self-executing rule" or a "deem and pass" -- has been commonly used, although never to pass legislation as momentous as the $875 billion health-care bill. It is one of three options that Pelosi said she is considering for a late-week House vote, but she added that she prefers it because it would politically protect lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure.

"It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know," the speaker said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday. "But I like it," she said, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."

Meanwhile, the paper editorializes against use of the tactic, calling it "unseemly" and "dodgy."

From a purely political perspective, if you're a Democratic member, wouldn't you rather say that you voted for the Senate bill, and then for a second bill to "fix" it, rather than attempt to split hairs during a heated campaign, and explain how you passed the bill without actually voting on it?

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