Okay, as much as I want to share a bunch of comments about what’s been going on in Washington, D.C. as I’ve been gallivanting around the Charleston, SC area looking for a job that doesn’t entail bussing tables with a $150,000 education, we need to get something out of the way first in deference to those on the left whose entire argument in favor of making the reform of one-sixth of our nation’s economy into a giant suppository consists of that same tired mantra: “uhhh, the Republicans have already done it.”
Yes, the Republican Party leadership has used the “self-executing rule” before. In fact, not only have they used the rule before, but in 2005 when the GOP used the regrettable process to reconcile a clerical error in order to pass an equally regrettable–but commonplace–increase in the debt ceiling, Nancy Pelosi got her barbed-wire panties so much in a twist over it that she and Louise Slaughter took to the federal courts and wrote friend-of-the-court briefs in support of a Ralph Nader-related consumer group’s argument deeming the “deem and pass” process unconstitutional.
The actual text of the complaint was included in a great piece in yesterday’s Washington Examiner. I’ve cleaned it up a bit, keeping the words and losing the citations so as to make the hypocrisy all the more clear:
Article I of the United States Constitution requires that before proposed legislation may “become a Law … (1) a bill containing its exact text [must be] approved by a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives; (2) the Senate [must] approve precisely the same text; and (3) that text [must be] signed into law by the President.”
Public Citizen, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization, filed suit in District Court claiming that the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 is invalid because the bill that was presented to the President did not first pass both chambers of Congress in the exact same form. In particular, Public Citizen contends that the statute’s enactment did not comport with the bicameral passage requirement of Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution, because the version of the legislation that was presented to the House contained a clerk’s error with respect to one term, so the House and Senate voted on slightly different versions of the bill and the President signed the version passed by the Senate.
Public Citizen asserts that it is irrelevant that the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate both signed a version of the proposed legislation identical to the version signed by the President. Nor does it matter, Public Citizen argues, that the congressional leaders’ signatures attest that indistinguishable legislative text passed both houses.
Friends on the left, please understand that as regrettable as ANY use of the so-called “deem and pass” rule is, the Republicans’ use of the measure was to pass a bill with a minor clerical error in it. The District Court, in this case, ruled that use of the process to deal with the minor error was just fine. And, as far as I know, the vote on this particular bill wasn’t very close. Now, please also don’t get me wrong — I don’t like it much at all that this procedural shortcut is used at all. Why not do things the right way, regardless of which party is in the majority?
That being said, there is a tremendous difference between using the “deem and pass” process to reconcile two very slightly different bills–save for the aforementioned clerical error–and using it to deem as passed legislation which would enact the single-largest entitlement program since the New Deal, fundamentally transforming one-sixth of the nation’s economy in the process, just to avoid any excess accountability which comes along with forcing through legislation which has been vehemently opposed by the majority of the American people. This is entirely different, people. This isn’t a routine debt limit increase which has encountered a procedural hiccup because of a typographical error — this is an enormous piece of legislated social change which has encountered a failure to garner votes because of popular opposition.
And, believe you me, the Democrats do not have the votes. Yes, we’ve been hearing all sorts of vote-counts from various congressmen and congresswomen. Yes, we’ve seen the pundits with the whiteboards. But by far the biggest tell-tale sign of where this bill is with regard to the requisite number of votes can be found in the lack of a vote at all. Take a look at House Democrat Whip James Clyburn’s not-so-artful dodging of questions yesterday:
It’s kind of funny, actually. I spent all afternoon yesterday in Clyburn’s district, busy looking at apartments with my wife. And all day, having already heard the interview, I couldn’t wait to bring it up here at America’s Right.
Listen closely to the five-plus minutes of the segment — not once does Clyburn actually respond to a question with a solid answer. In fact, the only thing that Clyburn seems at all sure of is that the Democrats do NOT have the votes at this time. Instead, he only says that he cannot quite say whether the Democrats will be able to get the votes at all, or whether House Speaker Pelosi will use the “deem and pass” rule to pass the bill without the House having actually voted on it.
His is a political party in turmoil, folks. It really is. On Sunday, as we drove the 700 or so miles from Philadelphia to Charleston, I thought for a while about what a Republican presidential primary would look like if it were to be held at this time. With the possible exception of folks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain on issues such as Guantanamo Bay and illegal immigration, there is currently an amazing amount of cohesion among the guys and gals I’d figure to be in the mix. On the other side of the aisle, however, is a severely fractured Democratic Party. If it weren’t, the nation would look even more different now than it did 18 months ago, and President Barack Obama would have a few more legislative notches on his presidential bedpost.
That the Democrats are even considering the politically suicidal “deem and pass” rule is evidence of just how troubled the party is. On the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, Congressman Mike Pence characterized his colleagues across the aisle as “so desperate to pass it that they’re willing to trample on the traditional rules of the House and Senate and even trample on the Constitution of the United States to get it done.” His full remarks:
The Democrat health care bill that’s being brought through the Congress this week is nothing more than a government takeover of health care, and the American people know it. I know the administration doesn’t like us to use that phrase, but come on. When you mandate that every American purchase health insurance whether they want it or need it or not, you mandate that every business provide it, you create a massive government-run bureaucracy exchange that mandates what’s in insurance plans, you wrap that all in about $1 trillion worth of spending, that’s a government takeover of health care.
But what’s really remarkable about this whole business is that not only the American people rejected this plan but Democrats are so desperate to pass it that they’re willing to trample on the traditional rules of the House and Senate and even trample on the Constitution of the United States to get it done.
The Constitution provides that a bill becomes a law if it’s passed the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats actually don’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill, so they’ve decided they’re going to try and pass the bill without a vote.
Well that would be news to the Founders of this country, and a betrayal of the commitment of every Member of this Congress to the American people. I urge the Speaker, if you have the votes for the Senate bill, bring it to the floor. If you don’t, let’s scrap the bill and start over for the American people.
I happen to agree with Congressman Pence, though I’d have liked it more if he would have acknowledged previous use of the measure by members of his own party, and promised to enjoin any further use. Pence is a stand-up guy who, in my own experience with him at least, seems to have no qualms whatsoever with acknowledging the failures of the Republican Party in the past. His response to the Democrats’ proposed use of the “deem and pass” rule should not only be met with frustration and ire, but also with the admission that such possible use has awakened leadership in his own party to the potential for abuse in this regard, and that they have sworn off any and all use in the future. Anything less, I think, doesn’t do enough to either counteract the left’s own cries of hypocrisy or prevent further such cries in the future.
Nevertheless, the underhanded nature of what is being done by the Democrats considering the size, scope and cost of the legislation in question is fairly obvious. The people see it. The people see that, to the Democratic Party leadership, this so-called “health care reform” isn’t about health care at all, but rather is about a desperate move by a mangy, cornered street rat looking to get a few bites in before it meets its demise at the business end of a shovel wielded by Joe and Jane Sixpack.
And, as further evidence of the growing fissure within the Democratic Party, some democrats are actually listening to the people. Take Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire, for example:
While he does yeoman’s work in terms of avoiding questions and hedging his bets–perhaps he’s holding out for a Keystone State version of the “Cornhusker Kickback”–he does mention several times that he is actively listening to his constituents, a very concept which at its heart runs afoul of what his party’s leadership is considering with regard to passing the bill without actually voting on it.
And that, too, runs to the heart of Nancy Pelosi’s motivation in advancing the idea of the “Slaughter Solution.” She claims that she is just looking to insulate those in her party by making it easier, politically, for them to vote in favor of the final legislation rather than for the Senate bill and other related “fixer” legislation separately, but it should be fairly obvious that, to folks like Congressman Altmire, there are other factors at play besides ease of re-election in November — namely the cost and consequences of the bill, should it be passed.
It is those costs and consequences which have left Nancy Pelosi and her far-left flunkies unable to garner the requisite votes for just about a year now, since long before the August 2009 recess which served as the first of many pointless deadlines gone by. And it is that lack of support which has Pelosi looking to procedural shortcuts and unconstitutional measures by which she can force her brand of health care reform upon the people she is supposed to represent.
Thankfully, House Republicans have responded, announcing a plan yesterday to introduce a resolution which would require the Democrats to have a regular vote on the bill.
Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) — who switched from Democrat to Republican in December primarily because of his opposition to health reform — is expected to introduce the resolution Tuesday, according to GOP aides. Democrats could move to table the measure or refer it to committee, but no matter what, lawmakers will have to take some sort of vote this week on the question of whether the proposed strategy should be allowed.
Sounds good to me. Now, if they would only make such a resolution binding against Republicans, too, we might avoid similar problems in the future.