Thursday, March 11, 2010

Worser and worser...

Using reconciliation to pass the wildly unpopular health care reform package, after the people have spoken so clearly, seemed like the ultimate insult to the electorate. About as contemptuous an act as the elected classes could commit.

Apparently we ain't seen nothin' yet:
House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.

Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.

Slaughter has not taken the plan to Speaker Pelosi as Democrats await CBO scores on the corrections bill. "Once the CBO gives us the score we'll spring right on it," she said. . . .
Daniel Foster
This is all a bit obscure, so let me try to put it as clearly as I can. This move would solve for House Democrats the problem of acting first. It would allow the House to pass a reconciliation measure on the health-care bill (complete with fixes to the Cadillac Tax etc.) without first passing the Senate version. It would thus defuse mitigate the threat — ingeniously pounded into the heads of rank-and-file House Democrats by Senate Republican leadership — that the House could pass the Senate bill only to be double-crossed by the Senate on the sidecar. And, worse, that the president could sign the Senate bill into law, leaving wavering House members on the hook for supporting it.

That's the rub on the politics of this thing, and I wouldn't blame you for stopping right here. But those of you who are procedural masochists might be wondering how the process itself would work.

Well, each bill brought to the floor of the House is debated under its own “rule” setting the length and structure of debate, including which if any amendments can be considered. A given bill's rule is created by the — you guessed it — Rules Committee and presented to the whole House for a simple majority vote prior to consideration of the bill itself. In this case, the Democrats would bring a “self-executing rule” to the floor that allowed for the adoption of the Senate bill when, and only when, the reconciliation sidecar is passed, thereby avoiding the need to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a separate up-or-down vote.

What exactly is a self-executing rule? CRS gets into the nitty gritty, calling it a “two-for-one” procedure:

This means that when the House adopts a rule it also simultaneously agrees to dispose of a separate matter, which is specified in the rule itself. For instance, self-executing rules may stipulate that a discrete policy proposal is deemed to have passed the House and been incorporated in the bill to be taken up. The effect: neither in the House nor in the Committee of the Whole will lawmakers have an opportunity to amend or to vote separately on the “self-executed” provision. It was automatically agreed to when the House passed the rule.

Last year, House Democrats used a “self-executing rule” to push through the controversial Waxman Amendment to the cap-and-trade bill. In that case, after weeks of committee mark-up and debate on one version of the bill, a special rule was brought to the House at 3:47 A.M. on the morning of the final vote, which in effect scrapped the existing bill and replaced it with a new version from Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), including a never-before-seen 309-page amendment, the adoption of which was self-executed by the narrow (217-205) adoption of the rule.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Anyone feels as if they've consented to be governed this way?

Anyone?

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