Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Democrats suggest controversial “deem and pass” rule to pass health care reform

In an effort to vote on health care reform before Obama heads overseas on Sunday, a new “deem and pass” strategy dominated press conference discussions on Tuesday. This process allows the Rules Committee to deem that the Senate bill is passed without actually holding an up-or-down House vote on the bill. According to The Hill, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stated Tuesday that “deeming the Senate bill passed is consistent with procedures and practices used by Republicans and Democrats, and that it’s appropriate for a bill that will be moments away from being amended.”

While largely unfamiliar to the public, a “deem and pass” rule would allow House Democrats to only vote on the reconciliation fix—the amendments to the Senate bill—and then deem that by passing the amendments, the Senate bill itself has also passed. Democratic leaders are considering this option as a way to shield members from having to vote for the Senate bill, which contains unpopular provisions like the state-specific “Cornhusker Kickback.”

The timeline for these events hinges on how soon the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its report on the reconciliation package, which is expected at any time. The Rules Committee would then move the deeming process forward on Wednesday or Thursday, allowing House members 72 hours to read the bill before a floor vote on Saturday.

Questions remain as to whether deeming such a landmark piece of partisan legislation into law is constitutional and whether the House will have the necessary 216 votes to pass the reconciliation bill. This number is down from the 217 needed last week due to Rep. Nathan Deal’s retirement, leaving only 431 members in the House.

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