There Will Not Be an Up or Down Vote on ObamaCare

The left is upset that the major news media is reporting that the “Slaughter Rule” may have some constitutional problems.  Lefties are apoplectic that somebody would dare to argue that the House has to actually vote on the Senate passed ObamaCare bill before it is sent to the President and signed into law.  Article 1, Section 7, states that “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.”  

How does the left explain a scenario where a bill “pass the House of Representatives” without a vote, yet conforms with the constitution?  Maybe Marc Ambinder argues for the Atlantic that the House does not need to vote directly on a bill, because the Republicans did it too

Marc Ambinder writes using the “ALL CAPS METHOD” to stress his point that he believes that they ARE having an up or down vote on the Senate health care bill, notwithstanding the fact that they will never take a direct vote ON the Senate passed health care bill because it is way too controversial.  Does that make any sense to you?  Not to me.

In fact, they ARE taking an up or down vote on the Senate health care bill. They’re just doing it AT THE SAME TIME as they’re passing the reconciliation language, which countermands several controversial provisions. That is: House Democrats still have to vote for the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” and the “Gator Aid” provisions, but they’re going to do so while simultaneously passing the reconciliation fix that removes them. The two bills will essentially be merged into one vote.

Two bills merged into one vote Ambinder argues.  That is what the left wants you to believe.  The Slaughter Rule starts when the House Rules Committee produces a rule for the conditions for debate on ObamaCare and reconciliation.  The rule will condition the passage of the Senate passed version of ObamaCare on passage of the health care reconciliation package.  This reconciliation package is a series of amendments to the Senate passed bill.  Ambinder wants you to believe that the vote on the amendment to the Senate passed bill, is an “up or down” vote on the Senate passed ObamaCare bill.  Yet, the left agrees that they can’t win an “up or down” vote on the Senate passed bill alone, because House members dont’ like the bill.

The Slaughter Rule would be voted upon by the House.  If that his passed, then the House will vote on the health care reconcilation package.  There will NOT be a vote on the Senate passed health care bill.  Basically, you have two votes, one on the rule, skip “up or down” vote on ObamaCare, then vote on the health care reconciliation package.

But it’s still an up or down vote on health care — one that Republicans can use to bash Democrats with if they want to, but one that Democrats hope will provide them with some political cover — yes, they voted for the Senate bill, but they did so with its amendments attached.

Ambinder agrees that this vote is structured for political cover so that members can make believe they didn’t support the Senate passed ObamaCare bill.  There will never be a vote on the Senate passed bill by design.  The House will vote for a rules package and, if that passes, then on the reconciliation package of amendments to the bill.  Actually, the Senate passed version of ObamaCare will DEEMED to have been passed and triggered by passage of the reconciliation measure. 

Republicans really don’t have much of a constitutional argument because the Constitution gives the House and the Senate the power to define its own rules. If “deeming” a Senate bill as passed is ruled to be the same thing as passing it, then the bill is “passed,” constitutionally. (As Rep. Sam Rayburn, in 1948, put it, “There is to be one vote only; and if the resolution is agreed to, it means that the House concurs in the Senate amendments.”)

The constitution does grant the power to each chamber to establish the rules of business.  That is why the filibuster is constitutional in the Senate, because the Senate has passed a rules package setting up a rule and procedure for shutting down unlimited debate with 60 votes.  Because the Constitution explicitly states that the House has to pass a bill, that would seem to not allow a deeming resolution for health care.  The House does not have the power to set up a rule that explicitly violates the Constitution under the House and Senate’s rule making power.

And while it’s true that the rule has never been used for something this large, it’s unusual for Republicans to be bothered by the idea that controversial legislation ought to be subject to an up and down vote on its merits.  GOPers, endorsed by their own rules guru, Rep. David Dreier of California, have used the maneuver to pass legislation large and small — including a $40 billion dollar deficit reduction bill. Dreier in 2005 used the tactic to allow Republicans to avoid having to take a recorded vote on an immigration measure. It’s also a bit rich for Republicans to complain about a parliamentary tactic being employed in a way that’s not in keeping with the spirit of the traditions of Congress.

It is a weak argument to argue that Democrats should be allowed to use unconstitutional deeming resolutions, because Republicans used unconstitutional deeming resolutions.  This is a very large bill and the Republicans in the House argue that it is unprecedented to use this self-executing deeming procedure for such a large piece of legislation.  Both sides may have used this in the past, but that does not make it right or constitutional.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to see the “deeming” move providing any plausible deniability for Democrats. It’s just an easier — and not controversial, or rare — way for them to pass a difficult bill. In November, they’ll still be on the hook.

I agree that members that vote for the Slaughter rule and the reconciliation package will be considered by the American people to have voted for ObamaCare.  That does not mitigate the fact that these same members may have violated their oath to the constitution by voting for a procedure that seems unconstitutional on it’s face. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday that “nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill” and Chair of the Rules Committee Louise Slaughter (D-NY) told CNN today that House members don’t want to vote on a bill including the Cornhusker Kickback.  Clearly, liberals in Congress are trying to avoid a direct vote on the Senate passed version of ObamaCare, yet they are trying to set up a rule to get it to the President’s desk.  How this scenario is within the letter or spirit of the explicit language of Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution is beyond me.