Van Hollen Advises Silence on Unconstitutional ObamaCare Procedure

House leaders have scheduled a vote for next Friday or Saturday according to Politico on ObamaCare.  Reports indicate that House leaders are planning to pass ObamaCare without a vote.  Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) advised Democrats not to talk about the procedure to pass the bill.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has come up with a very complicated procedure to get ObamaCare to the President’s desk without House members having to vote directly on the bill.  So much for the Constitution that says that a bill does not become a law until the House and Senate pass identical bills, and then the President signs that legislation.

Chris Frates at Politico writes about a Van Hollen leaked memo to Democrats:

The office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is the assistant to Speaker Pelosi, sent a memo to Democratic staffers today telling them to clear members’ schedule for next weekend, saying a vote could come as early as Friday or Saturday, and noting that it was no coincidence that President Obama pushed back his trip abroad from March 18 to March 21st.

For those of you who didn’t believe the liberals in Congress were crazy enough to push forward with ObamaCareafter poll numbers continue to indicate that a vote for this bill is political death for many moderate Democrats, it is time to believe it.  President Obama has delayed a trip overseas to continue this lobbying and PR campaign for his government centered approach to comprehensive health care reform for a reason.  Pelosi has scheduled a vote for late next week after weeks of negotiating a procedure to pass the bill within the caucus.  This is ObamaCare’s last stand with the President and Pelosi pulling out all the stops to get it passed.

It is not suprising that Van Hollen advised members to avoid any talk about the unconstitutional manner in which they are considering to pass the bill.   

The Van Hollen memo also advised members to avoid talking about the process.  “At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no? Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL,” the memo says. “People who try and start arguments about process on this are almost always against the actual policy substance too, often times for purely political reasons.”

The Constitution clearly states that the House and Senate have to pass a bill before it is send to the President.  (See Article 1, Section 7)  The House is expected to take up a rule that will deem the Senate passed version of ObamaCare to be passed without a vote upon a condition.  The House will be drafting up a reconciliation measure to amend ObamaCare in a manner that avoids a Senate filibuster and skirts the requirement that reconciliation measures reconcile existing law to help balance the budget.  This is all very complicated, but the bottom line is that Dems in the House have come up with a procedure to pass ObamaCare while protecting moderate Dems by avoiding a direct vote on the bill.

Leadership expects a CBO score on the reconciliation package by today or Monday. No decisions have been made on how the final process will unfold on the House floor, the memo says. So it appears Democrats are still grappling with whether they can use the process to pass the Senate bill without voting directly on the bill. Many Democrats view the Senate bill’s deals and policies as a toxic political mix that they would rather not endorse without first making changes to it.

It is clear in this memo that they may back away from the unconstitutional procedure to pass ObamaCare, but it is on the table right now.  Van Hollen understands that moderate Dems “would rather not endorse (i.e. vote on) without first making changes to (ObamaCare).”  They want to use reconciliation to make changes to ObamaCare, but they don’t want to vote in favor of ObamaCare unchanged.  They don’t seem to have the votes to pass ObamaCare with a direct vote and without a reconciliation measure accompanying that bill.  The great irony is that no matter what procedure they attempt to use, the Senate passed version of ObamaCare will go to the Presidents desk unchanged after the House votes on a procedure. 

Here is the Van Hollen timeline according to the memo published by Politico:

TODAY or MONDAY: CBO will publish final scores on legislative language

THEN: House Budget Committee must approve using the reconciliation process to pass this

THEN: The bill will go to the Rules Committee, rule will be constructed for consideration on the floor, and language will be posted online (on the Rules website) and the 72-hour clock will start. When this happens, we will start to have a better idea on what the process will be.

THEN: A Manager’s Amendment will be constructed that will make some final changes

THEN: The Manager’s Amendment will be posted online and the 72-hour clock will start (this may overlap with the 72-hour clock on the reconciliation language). When Manager’s Amendment is done final process decisions will be locked in.

THIS MEANS: We will likely vote Friday or Saturday. (As you probably saw, POTUS pushed back the departure for his Asian trip from Thursday the 18th to Sunday the 21st; this was not a coincidence.) The Speaker has publically committed to trying to get a vote on both the reconciliation bill and the Senate bill on the same day. They are still trying to work out the final process on this and much of what we do depends on what the Senate Parliamentarian decides. You may be receiving calls about the “Slaughter Rule” and other rumors about what the process will be. Again, please understand: no decision has yet been made on the process for consideration on the House floor.

The United States Constitution is clear.  The House has to vote on legislation before it can go to the President.  Although Democrats will undoubtedly produce a long list of resolutions passed by Republicans to purportedly do the same thing, it seems like a clear violation of Article 1, Section 7 that states in part “Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives.”  A bill has not passed the House of Representatives if the House does not vote on it directly.  Many will argue that this is a political question and the Courts have no jurisdiction to hear the case.  That maybe true, yet our Representatives and Senators have taken an oath to the Constitution and they should not proceed with a procedure that may be a violation of that oath. 

Next week the House may have the final vote on a measure to pass ObamaCare.  A debate on the constitutionality of the actions of the House should be part of any discussion on ObamaCare, because this procedure is going to have a dramatic impact on what makes it, or does not make it, to the President’s desk in the name of health care reform.