Democrats may want to keep House Whip Rep. James Clyburn away from the media, because he doesn't engender much confidence in the path forward on health care. As leadership is still trying to create an air of inevitability around the passage of a health bill this week (though we still haven't seen the final changes), Clyburn concedes in an interview with Fox News that they don't have 216 votes yet. And then he struggles to defend the "deem and pass" strategy, or "Slaughter Solution," to enact the Senate bill without actually voting on it.
Here's a transcript of the exhcange on "deem and pass."
Clyburn: There's been a vote in the Senate. They got 60 votes for this. What we will be deeming is that those 60 votes that the people got, we will say on the House side, we deem that as having been passed. So they got the 60 votes. We got 220 votes for our bill in the House. The only thing we're voting on now are the things we call the fixes, the reconciliation. And so that's the part that we'll be voting on, what we'll be deeming already got 60 votes.
Scott: You don't think that's political sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors?
Whip Clyburn: Well, you may want to call it sleight of hand, but the fact of the matter is, just because you label it that doesn't mean we didn't have it before. We've done that, as I said, more than 100 times since I’ve been here, so this is nothing unusual. There's no trickery here at all. It's just that you do this process in order to facilitate the effort.
Scott: Pardon my skepticism, but you're talking about a trillion dollar bill you're talking about rearranging maybe a sixth of the American economy, it would seem to be unusual to enact this into law without a vote in the House of Representatives.
Whip Clyburn: Well, let's get away from the trillion dollar bill. Remember, we're still talking about the bill that was passed by the Senate. And last time I checked the score on the senate bill was, like, $850 billion. We did a trillion dollars on the house side, and that's not what we voted on. We will deem passed the senate bill which was much less than that.
Clyburn's argument is absurd on several levels. 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. Also, the cost of the Senate bill, including accounting gimmicks, was actually $875 billion -- once the reconciliation changes are added, that price will go higher. But regardless, does Clyburn seriously believe that it's a winning political argument to say, well, we passed a bill without voting on it, but the bill we voted on wasn't a $1 trillion bill, it was only "like $850 billion."
Video of the full interview below.