In an amazing reversal that happened just moments ago, Congressional Democrats now appear to be reversing their plan to use the “Slaughter Solution” to “deem” the Senate bill “passed” without an up or down vote. Republicans had been pressuring congressional Democratic leaders for the past few weeks to do exactly that, and the Washington Post now confirms “deem and pass” is dead:
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.
The abandonment of the “Slaughter Solution” by Democrats, under pressure from GOP leaders, is a welcome development in the health care reform debate which likely heads off a potential constitutional crisis if such a strategy was used. Now, all eyes will focus on the up or down vote on the Senate bill itself tomorrow.
As noted a few days ago by CentristNet, the establishment media had been scrupulously avoiding any discussion of the Democratic plans to use the “Slaughter Solution” in the House of Representatives to completely avoid an up or down vote on the Senate bill and instead have the bill “deemed passed” by the rules of debate created by House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Obamaphile “news” organizations like Newsweek even went so far as to condemn Republicans just days ago for even making this argument because it was unthinkable to Newsweek, apparently, that the Democrats would actually go down this “deemed passed” path.
On this final week of the Obamacare battle, the Democrats are actually attempting to defend the use of this procedural trickery to avoid an up or down vote in the House on the pork-filled, special interest deal laden Senate bill. Today, after ignoring the entire issue of the “Slaughter Solution” since Chairwoman Slaughter’s announcement of her intent to use same about a week ago, the narrative-setting New York Times actually reported on it, noting that House Democrats intend to avoid an up or down vote via the use of yet more procedural trickery re Obamacare:
WASHINGTON — As lawmakers clashed fiercely over major health care legislation on the House floor, Democrats struggled Tuesday to defend procedural shortcuts they might use to win approval for their proposals in the next few days.
House Democrats are so skittish about the piece of legislation that is now the vehicle for overhauling the health care system — the bill passed by the Senate in December — that they are considering a maneuver that would allow them to pass it without explicitly voting for it.
Under that approach, House Democrats would approve a package of changes to the Senate bill in a budget reconciliation bill. The Senate bill would be “deemed passed” if and when the House adopts rules for debate on the reconciliation bill — or perhaps when the House passes that reconciliation bill.
The idea is to package the changes and the underlying bill together in a way that amounts to an amended bill in a single vote. Many House Democrats dislike some provisions of the Senate bill, including special treatment for a handful of states, like Medicaid money for Nebraska, and therefore want to avoid a direct vote on it.
Of course, the NYT “news” article goes on to condemn Repuoblicans for pointing out this odious procedural trickery by Democrats on a bill that will directly affect 16-17% of the US economy. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post also reports for the first time on the “Slaughter Solution” in much the same way as the New York Times, framing it as just another partisan battle as opposed to an attempt to avoid the very “up or down” vote clamored for by President Obama over the past few weeks:
An obscure parliamentary maneuver favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suddenly ignited Tuesday as the latest tinder in the year-long partisan strife over reshaping the nation’s health-care system, triggering debate over the strategy’s legitimacy and political wisdom.
Republicans condemned Pelosi’s idea — in which House members would make a final decision on broad health-care changes without voting directly on the Senate version of the bill — as an abuse of the legislative process.
Instead of focusing on the use of this procedure trickery by Democrats in relation to the enormity of the comprehensive health care reform package at issue, WaPo and the NYT misdirect their readers into believing this “Slaughter Solution” issue is just another vapid partisan battle. In fact, the “Slaughter Solution” explicitly rejects President Obama’s rhetoric about an “up or down vote” on the Senate bill by allowing the Senate bill to be “deemed passed” and signed by President Obama without an up or down vote:
The debate centers on a parliamentary technique that is a variant on the “rule” that the House adopts for every bill that comes to a floor vote. Rules define the ground rules for the vote, including amendments, length of the debate and other terms. Under a self-executing rule, the House essentially agrees that a vote on one measure is tantamount to, or “deemed” as, deciding on something related.
In this instance, the self-executing rule would say that the Senate’s version of health-care legislation would be deemed approved if House members adopt a set of changes to that bill. The Senate then would have to approve the changes, but the original bill could go directly to President Obama to be signed into law.
Sadly, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs explicitly lied about this issue on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation”, claiming that the House would pass two separate bills, one in which the House would vote up or down on the “underlying Senate bill” and another, separate vote on the reconciliation “fix” package. The establishment media gave Gibbs a pass on these intentionally misleading claims made on national television of by senior federal official, and only today are they even reporting on Democratic plans to have only one vote on the “fixes” after the Senate bill is “deemed passed” by the “Slaughter Solution” without an actual up or down vote.
Regardless of which side of the Obamacare debate you fall on, fair-minded centrists and independents, as well as those on the right and left, should demand that the House hold an up or down vote on the Senate bill if the Democrats want to make the Senate bill the law of the land via President Obama’s signature. Passing a massive comprehensive health care reform bill into law without an up or down vote by the House of Representatives, as is now intended by the “Slaughter Solution”, poses grave risks to the future functioning of the American system of governance and such efforts must be resisted, strongly, by all Americans, regardless of their leanings on the bills themselves. If Obamacare is to become the law of the land, it must be passed constitutionally with an up or down vote, not via a procedural trick cooked up by Democrats desperate to avoid an up or down vote on the pork and special interest laden Senate health care bill.
President Barack Obama has flip flopped today, embracing the kind of backroom deals he campaigned against in 2008 and even recently condemned in the Senate health care package, as he heads to Ohio to begin the final push to gain passage of his massive comprehensive health care reform plan known as Obamacare. The fact that Obama has decided to accept these unpopular, backroom special interest deals at this critical moment regarding the signature initiative of his Presidency could come to define the Obama brand for years to come. Indeed, Specific pork in the Obamacare package intended to purchase votes, such as those of Dem. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Dem. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CN) and Dem. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), will now remain in the final Obamacare package to be voted upon by the House of Representatives this week:
WASHINGTON – Still seeking votes for his proposed health care overhaul, President Barack Obama appears ready to reverse his position and allow unpopular deal-sweetening measures in the hopes of finding Democratic support for legislation whose future will be decided in coming days.
Taking a new position, Axelrod said the White House only objects to state-specific arrangements, such as an increase in Medicaid funding for Nebraska, ridiculed as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” That’s being cut, but provisions that could affect more than one state are OK, Axelrod said.
That means deals sought by senators from Montana and Connecticut would be fine — even though Gibbs last week singled them out as items Obama wanted removed. There was resistance, however, from two committee chairman, Democratic Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and the White House has apparently backed down.
It appears that the claims of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs regarding the need to remove the special pork-laden deals for individual Democratic senators were designed solely to win a news cycle from the compliant establishment media, not actually improve the Obamacare legislation by removing such backroom deals. At the end of the day, the only change to the 100’s of pages of special interest pork in Obamacare to be made is the extension of the special Medicare deal for Nebraska, known as the “Cornhusker Kickback”, to all states, which, of course, will increase the amount of federal deficit spending that will result if Obamacare passes.
Meanwhile, the White House tried to increase public pressure on Congress to pass the legislation. Obama planned to visit Strongsville, Ohio, home of cancer patient Natoma Canfield, who wrote the president she gave up her health insurance after it rose to $8,500 a year. Obama repeatedly has cited that letter from a self-employed cleaning worker who lives in the Cleveland suburb to illustrate the urgency of the massive overhaul.
Canfield’s sister, Connie Anderson, was scheduled to introduce Obama at that event.
This use of individual anecdote was the same strategy employed by Obama and the Democrats at the health care summit a few weeks ago, and the benefit of this strategy is to allow Obama to make an emotional appeal without focusing too much on the quite ugly realities of the legislative language itself (such as the payoffs to Baucus and Dodd) and the even ugilier realities of the procedural trickery to be used by Democrats this week in the House (“Slaughter Solution”) and the Senate (reconciliation).
Politico confirmed just now that the “Slaughter Solution” is now being pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for use on the Obamacare package to allow the House to “deem” the bill passed without actually voting on it:
The so-called solution, named for House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), would “deem” the Senate bill passed if House Democrats approve a package of fixes.
In other words, House members wouldn’t have to formally cast a vote on a bill that most of them don’t want to defend on the campaign trail — but it would pass anyway.
The speaker told her rank and file Friday that the decision was still up in the air but she thought this was the way most of her members wanted to handle the Senate bill.
The Newsweek article by David Stone from Friday, March 12, 2010 which strongly condemned any move to use the “Slaughter Solution”, excerpted by CentristNet here, has now been pulled from Newsweek’s site, clearly indicating that the establishment media is circling the wagons and set to push the “Slaughter Solution” over the finish line. Indeed, the talking points released by Democrats on Friday refer to such issues as the arguably unconstitutional “Slaughter Solution” and the use of reconciliation in the Senate as “inside baseball” and not worthy of discussion with the public. Considering Obama is starting the week by flip flopping on the sweetheart, backroom deals in Obamacare, whether the public catches on to the unprecedented procedural trickery planned in the House and Senate could determine the fate of the bill.
UPDATE: Ed at Hotair points out that the Democrats have now unveiled their 2300 page “Shell bill”, a copy of which can be found here, to start the process of the “Slaughter Solution”:
According to Heritage and Philip Klein, this is a shell bill, not the actual proposed reconciliation bill. It’s a copy of the version from last autumn. Later this week, the House will gut this version and replace it with their new ObamaCare fixes. However, the student loan nationalization will remain in the bill, so it’s not entirely old hat.
Fox News is reporting, building on prior AP reporting, that the White House has today increased pressure on Democrats in Congress, especially the House Democrats, putting out word that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats must either pass Obamacare through the House of Representatives now, before the Easter recess begins on March 18, 2010, or the entire effort at comprehensive health care reform will die.
Over the past few days, the White House has indicated it wants a vote in the House by March 18, and Congressional Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have resisted agreeing to any deadline. However, with the new, increased pressure today, Congressional Democratic sources say that they are “on the same page” as the White House:
A House Democratic leadership source tells Fox there is something approaching convergence on the White House’s March 18 deadline for a vote on the Senate health care bill.
“Everyone is now on same page,” the leadership source said about the March 18 deadline. “We understand the White House believes that would be optimal timing. But they understand we are not wedding ourselves to any deadlines.”
With today’s developments, it now appears that the year-long health care debate finally has a date certain where either Obamacare will pass or it will not, and that deadline appears to March 18, 2010. The next eight days may decide the historical trajectory of the United States, as strict federal control over the entire health care delivery system, 16% of the US Economy, will surely substantially alter the direction of the American economy and political system for decades to come.
Ironically, after over a year of debate over health care reform, and lots of talk regarding cooperation between President Obama/Democratic Congressional Leadership and the GOP on writing the final version of the bill at the health care summit 10 days ago, Democrats continue to scramble behind closed doors to write a final version to the liking of Democrats in Congress. Of course, no Republicans are involved in any way with these last minute drafting efforts by Obama and the Congressional Democratic leadership, despite the clearpreference of the American people for such joint drafting to occur. Fox News’s Major Garrett describes the frantic backroom drafting occurring now:
In reality, the White House isn’t budging and the House Democratic leadership is trying. But it can’t vote on the Senate bill until it has a fully drafted and CBO (Congressional Budget Office)-scored bill to “fix” the Senate bill’s imperfections.
But the so-called “fix” bill isn’t ready and there is no expectation CBO will deliver preliminary cost estimates Wednesday. That pushes the schedule back because House Democratic leaders cannot begin the final whip process (counting “yes” and “no” votes) until it has a full “fix” bill with a concrete CBO score on costs, revenues and deficit implications.
In other words, there’s a lot of work left to be done and not much time to finish it. What may well be happening is House Democrats and the White House are agreeing to disagree — on the timing, not the objective.
President Obama’s message to progressives who are dissatisfied with the Senate health care bill is two fold: First: Don’t forget about the uninsured. Second: Don’t forget what failure to pass this bill would do to the party and my presidency.
In a meeting with House progressives today, Obama made the pitch.
Speaking to reporters in the Speaker’s lobby off the House floor, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said the President reminded them that “If this opportunity passes, much of our agenda, on the progressive side…it would be difficult, if not impossible for a generation to get back to this issue.”
I asked if the message was convincing to those in attendance.
“It’s pretty compelling,” Grijalva said.
That’s a significant change from his tone earlier in the week, when Grijalva said he was inclined to vote against the bill from the left.
Obama reminded the assembled Democrats that doing nothing would be politically disastrous. “To maintain a strong presidency we need to pass this bill,” the President said, according to Grijalva.
Directly on the heels of Obama’s meeting last night at the White House with center-leaning House Democrats, today’s gathering and the leaked substance of Obama’s plea to those in attendance demonstrate the lack of a majority of votes right now in the House for the Senate bill. No Republicans will vote for the Obamacare package, while about two dozen centrist House Democrats have already announced their opposition, and a few far left progressive House Dems are announced no’s as well. The next few days could be decisive in the White House drive to push the Senate Obamacare package through the House and achieve the largest reform of the American health system in history.
UPDATE: Hotair has a different take on the meeting than TPM.
UPDATE: Hotair points out an interesting quote from Obama today in light of the news of the Obama’s appointment of the brother of “undecided” House Dem Jim Matheson (D-UT) to an appellate seat: “I will do everything in my powerto make the case for reform.” Apparently Obama may be including the sale of federal appellate seats as part of doing “everything” in his “power to make the case for reform.”
UPDATE #2: Ed at Hotair points out that during the health care summit, Obama used more time than anyone else and ran over hsi claimed amount every time he spoke yet continuously scolded the GOP to be “brief”. Yet another example of Obama’s “do as I say and not as I do” mindset, similar to the CSPAN transparency claim outlined above.