As the clock ticks toward a late-week House vote promised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Democrats consider the possibility of passing the Senate version of the health care bill without a direct vote.
This procedure, known as a “deem-and-pass” or a “self-executing rule,” would allow the House to vote on a package of more popular “fixes”‘ to the Senate bill – when these are passed, the Senate bill is also “deemed” passed.
Though it is one of three options under consideration for the coming House vote, Pelosi said she prefers it, as it would politically protect legislators who are reluctant to publicly support the bill. “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 because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”
The measure has been painted by Republican opponents as unconstitutional as well as a move to avoid potentially stigmatizing public affiliation with an unpopular measure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said, “anyone who endorses this strategy will be forever remembered for trying to claim they didn’t vote for something they did.”
However, a memo released by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday morning, defending the historical nature of the deem-and-pass rules, noted that the tactic has been used “far more often by Republicans than Democrats” over the years.
“For starters, despite what the minority may claim, the precedent for adopting a resolution and at the same time concurring in a Senate amendment to a bill was set back in 1933,” the rules memo stated. The measure has been used numerous times over the past 20 years, although never to pass legislation as large as the $875 billion health care bill.
However, the question for Congressional Democrats is whether it is passing the bill or passing on the bill that could be more detrimental to them in the upcoming elections. Along with renewed pressure by progressive advocacy groups to include a public option, President Obama has been meeting separately with undecided Democrats to persuade them to support the bill.
According to Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Bill Clinton, if the Democrats fail to pass the health care legislation, they will lose the House in upcoming election. However, “if they pass health care, they go into a tough environment, but they have an accomplishment, plus one that will provide benefits.”