Here is a little known bit of chicanery Democrats tried to use back in 2010, when they still controlled the House of Representatives. They tried to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) deemed passed. Then speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to “deem” that the House has passed the Senate version of Obamacare, then send it to President Obama to sign.
In order to get the necessary 60 votes to pass the Obamacare bill in the Senate, Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had to include some, shall we say, unfavorable amendments, such as the Cornhusker kickback that Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) demanded, which exempted the state of Nebraska from paying the state’s share of Medicaid expansion, as well as other state-specific payoff amendments.
The Senate passed its version of Obamacare at 8 AM on December 24, 2009. But Pelosi, wanting to act quickly, feared that there were not the votes in the House to pass a bill identical to the one passed by the Senate. House Democrats hated the thought of having to be on record voting for all the bribes to which Reid resorted. So Pelosi prevailed upon Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chair of the House Rules Committee, (hence the name Slaughter rule or Slaughter solution) to invoke the self-executing rule, also known as a hereby rule. Under this amazing procedural rule, the House would vote on reconciliation corrections, but not on the Senate-worded bill. If those reconciliation corrections passed, the self-executing rule would say that the Senate worded bill is approved by the House, even without a vote on the actual wording of the Senate bill. Self-executing rules have been used in the past, but never before to avoid a vote on an entire legislation. Pelosi could then send the Senate bill, loaded with payoff amendments, to President Obama for his signature, while House Democrats claimed to oppose the Senate bill, thereby declaring themselves to be for and against the Senate bill at the same time. Fortunately, Democrats lost control of the House before any of this could be enacted.
The two-votes-in-one chicanery is an attempt to circumvent the US Constitution. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution clearly states that in order for a “Bill” to “become a Law,” it “shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate.” This is why the House and Senate have a conference committee to work out differences in bills each body passes.
Democrats tried, when they were in power, to have us enter a political wonderland where the rules were whatever Democrats said they were. Pelosi and the White House were resorting to these abuses because their bill was so unpopular that a majority of their own party didn’t want to vote for it.
In 2010, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), was ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee. He said, “With the Slaughter solution, House Democrats have exposed themselves as willing to abandon the most fundamental element of legislating, a transparent up-or-down vote, in order to achieve a unpopular partisan objective.”
BTW, Senate rules originally called for 67 senators to vote cloture. That rule was changed to 60 votes in 1917. By agreement between the Senate leader and the vice president, the Senate at the start of any session could reduce the number required to limit debate from 60 to 55. Further, the US Constitution, in Article 1, Section 5, states: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,…” Still further, some Constitutional scholars argue that, on the first day the Senate convenes, Senate rules, including Rule XXII, the cloture rule, do not yet apply, and can be changed by majority vote. Under this interpretation, debate could be stopped by majority vote as well. But I digress.
The Supreme Court of the US has agreed to hear arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare itself. Justice Elena Kagan, who was solicitor general and worked on Obamacare, has yet to recuse herself. But that is the subject of another article.
But that’s just my opinion.