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Explaining deem and pass

Byron Tau doesn't think I, or anyone else, has done a very good job explaining deem and pass, so he takes a shot:

So here’s how the “deem-and-pass” procedure would actually work. The House Rules committee is often called the “traffic cop” of the House – controlling what bills come to the floor and how much debate is allowed on each one. On each bill, they pass what is called a “rule” – a resolution determining what kind of debate is allowed on each bill. The whole House must first pass the rule, then the underlying legislation. In the case of “deem-and-pass,” the vote on the rule would also have the effect of passing the Senate bill. According to the CRS report linked above, the House has used this procedure at least six times between 1989 and 2005 with both parties in charge.

Maybe that'll be clearer for folks. But the problem with explaining deem and pass is that it's virtually impossible to explain why it's being used. Reconciliation is simple enough: Republicans insist on filibustering and Democrats want the health-care reform fixes to have an up-or-down vote. If Republicans wouldn't filibuster, Democrats wouldn't use reconciliation. It's as simple as that.

But deem and pass? House Democrats don't want to vote for the Senate bill because it includes the excise tax and the Nebraska deal. Normally, what would happen is that they'd create a package of amendments stripping the offending sections or send the two bills to conference committee and emerge with a single piece of legislation that both chambers could support. But because the 41 Senate Republicans have sworn to filibuster anything that moves, those options are blocked.

So here's what's happening: The House has to pass the Senate bill before the reconciliation fixes can be attached. But they don't want to do that. So they're passing the reconciliation fixes and deeming the Senate bill passed as part of that. This might work if Americans were extremely sensitive to the minutia of congressional procedure. Instead, Democrats have shot themselves in the foot and given themselves many more problems than if they'd just said the Senate bill is a big step forward and our fixes will make it even better and voted to pass both.

Last point: This was all predictable. Indeed, some of us predicted it. It is impossible for me to understand why Democrats are so resolutely insistent on making this process harder and more stressful for themselves than it needs to be.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 16, 2010; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Next: Karl Rove gets a taste of his own medicine

Comments

Pelosi herself said "Nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill". BTW: if this goes through, will it be OK when tort reform / privatizing Social Security gets passed via "deem and pass" next time the Republicans control the House (hopefully after this upcoming Election Day)?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Keep in mind that, in 2003 and 2005, if DEMOCRATS hadn't filibustered, Republicans wouldn't have threatened the "nuclear option" either.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Jake

You do realize a President has to sign bills into law, even after a bill was passed by reconciliation or deem and pass?

So, yes, it would be OK for the GOP to pass any bill by such mechanisms, but unless Obama signs them into law, nothing is enacted into law.

Maybe the GOP will have to impeach Obama to get the job done. Would that be alright for you?

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 16, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

This latest scheme by House members to attempt to somehow escape political responsibility even drew the ire of the Washington Post editorial page, which (like Ezra himself) has strongly backed health care reform:

"What is intended as a final sprint threatens to turn into something unseemly and, more important, contrary to Democrats' promises of transparency and time for deliberation."

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Lomillialor:

That assumes that Obama is legally President of the United States.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

JakeD2: Republicans threatened to change senate rules to eliminate the filibuster from being used to stop judicial nominees. They didn't threaten to use reconciliation--they actually used it, at least for tax cuts. Yay! That expire now. Boo!

That being said, in answer to Ezra's implied question as to why Democrats are so resolutely insistent on making this process harder and more stressful for themselves than it needs to be, I think it's because they are tired of being in power and want to lose, so they can be in the minority and play with the filibuster the Republicans seem to be having so much fun with.

Seriously. Add this "deem and pass" stuff to the new requirement that businesses having to plan how they are going to fail (when-the-government-crushes-them-shhhh), and I think the Democrats either (a) just want to lose, (b) think nobody will notice (c) or irreparably tone deaf politically.

Of course, at different times, almost all of that could be said about Republicans, too. Maybe there's just something in the air at the capitol rotunda.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 16, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Jake

I thought when congress certified the 2008 election, that made it legal.

Are you seriously saying he is not president in the same breath you attack Dems for using procedures the GOP has used to enact laws?

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 16, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, did you know that right now at 3 pm above your picture, your newspaper is counting down the time until the government takeover of healthcare, there are 3 days and counting left, and it says, "You can stop Obamacare now, join the fight, donate!" It looks so incongruous just above your picture.

Posted by: rjewett | March 16, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

So the WP is selling its soul to advertising dollars so greedy insurance companies can declare, right here on Ezra's blog, that we are just hours away from government run health care.

What a piece of crap the WP is.

Ezra, you must feel really proud right now to be a WP employee.

And yesterday you didn't even have the decency to point out Ryan's lies in his WP op-ed.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 16, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: "That assumes that Obama is legally President of the United States."

And it assumes that all the former (and our current) presidents aren't actually members of a cabal that decided to stage the destruction of the World Trade Center (at the last Bilderberg meeting) in order to start a war that will eventually lead to a global government (and a global currency).

It also assume that our presidents are actually elected, and actually make decisions, even though all reasonable people know the elections are faked and our presidents are simply actors serving at the whim of our shadow government overlords (a cabal of Bond-style villains who meet in secret in vaguely eastern-European-sounding cities).

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 16, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

*****BTW: if this goes through, will it be OK when tort reform / privatizing Social Security gets passed via "deem and pass" next time the Republicans control the House.*****

Sure it would be ok. But it won't happen, because Republicans know it would be politically disastrous form them to dismantle Social Security. Democrats quite reasonably suspect that passing Obamacare will BENEFIT them politically, once voters have the chance to experience its actual components (and not just right wing caricatures of said components).

Posted by: Jasper999 | March 16, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"But the problem with explaining deem and pass is that it's virtually impossible to explain why it's being used"


oh come now Ezra you can say it. Two little words.

Political cover.


Posted by: visionbrkr | March 16, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Between Jake and Kevin and the ads here at this blog touting gvmt-run healthcare, this blog is starting to look like abovetopsecret.com (the most whackiest conspiracy site in existence).

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 16, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Jasper,

I could probably try to argue it would be disaster. Sure you couldn't privatize the whole thing but you could reasonably consider capping it at a set amount and then allowing private funds to be allocated too.

The world moved from defined benefit to defined contribution benefit plans some time ago.

Well the world outside government and unions at least.

At some point, the IOU's aren't going to be worth even the paper they're written on.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Ya'all need to relax about the advertising on this site. Advertising is advertising, if health care opponents want to waste their money advertising on a lefty blog I say go for it. 1) It won't do them any good 2) any money they spend here is money they don't spend someplace where it might actually further their cause.

TPM and Eschaton occasionally have advertisers that are rightwing. Does that make their sites rightwing? No, it just makes some rightwing advertisers stupid. Targeting a demographic that hates you is just pointless. They might as well be trying to sell running shoes to paraplegics.

Posted by: nisleib | March 16, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"It is impossible for me to understand why Democrats are so resolutely insistent on making this process harder and more stressful for themselves than it needs to be."

Easy to explain...

The house rightly perceives the senate as a place where good things die. They don't want to vote for the poison contained in the senate bill, then have nothing else passed. So they have to employe CYA tactics.

Because, the senate is owned by corporate interests! Go senate moderate dems!!!! Destroying democracy one filibustered non-vote at a time...

Posted by: rat-raceparent | March 16, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

nisleib,

I love especially when I go onto FDL and see Aetna advertisements. very funny!!

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 16, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that there is a very simple explanation for using deem-and-pass: Plausible deniability.

With deem-and-pass, wishy-washy Blue Dog Dems can go home and tell their constituents, honestly, that they did not vote for the Cornhusker Kickback and Florida Medicare deals.

On the other hand, if you pass the Senate bill separately, you are opening yourself up to that attack. Of course, the Blue Dogs can explain that they voted for it, but then voted to fix it with the reconciliation bill ... By the time the Blue Dog is done explaining, his audience has already decided to kick him out of office.

Posted by: Tractarian | March 16, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr: "The world moved from defined benefit to defined contribution benefit plans some time ago."

Except for non-union workers, right...

Well, if you weren't a doormat for your employer to walk all over, maybe you'd have a good pension, too. It's funny when wimps cry that others actually stick up for themselves.

Well, not funny. But, you know what I mean.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | March 16, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Lomillialor:

No, it wasn't legal (anymore than "certifying" Arnold Schwarzenegger's "election" as President would be).

Kevin_Willis:

Very funny.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

rat-raceparent,


I knew i could say "union" and you'd come running.

Actually i own my own business and work with some small business owners that have been strangled by unions and their costs.

I'm fine with a 401k personally and so are my employees. They've each been with me for 10 years and I have a generous match for a small company.

But hey if you're all for bankrupting companies be my guest. Just not mine, thanks.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I honestly don't get the controversy over "deem and pass" in the blogosphere. It's really not that big of a deal in terms of how they pass the bill. It's as if a teen has broken curfew, then asks her parents if she can go hang out with her parents on Friday night. The parents think on it for a couple days, but on Friday night, when they see her, hand her the keys and say, "You'd better be back by curfew!" The teen really couldn't care less that the parents didn't specifically say "Yes, you may hang out with your parents tonight." What matters is that they're out of the house.

In this case, the teenager is the American people. I really couldn't care less that the House doesn't specifically say "We pass the Senate bill." What matters to me is that health care reform gets done! It seems like you are falling into the trap of getting tied into knots over procedural nonsense.

Posted by: precisioncontrol | March 16, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, your opinion carries with it quite a lot of weight with me, but I really don't understand why this procedure is so objectionable to you. In principle, House Democrats are fully justified in not wanting to pass the Senate bill as presently constituted. The so-called "Louisiana Purchase" and "Cornhusker Kickback" are truly loathsome earmarks. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has already expressed its intention of adopting the President's fixes through reconciliation. I do not see any problem in the House voting in a way that forces the Senate leadership -- which has demonstrated considerable trouble in standing up to Republican obstructionism and demogoguery -- to keep its promise to the House and fix the bill. As for the politics of this issue, I fail to see how the GOP's criticisms of any of these arcane procedural maneuvers has obtained any resonance with the American people. If you cannot explain this particular voting process, then how does the opposition explain why it is unconstitutional? Michelle Bachmann can make all the speeches she wants, but I doubt that mainstream, independents are listening. According to the GOP, EVERYTHING that the Dems do, both substantive and procedural, is unconstitutional, unAmerican, etc. What difference does it make when it comes the political calculus? The House is using this procedural device to vote its collective conscience and that to me is unobjectionable.

Posted by: rawlsian | March 16, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

BREAKING: Ezra Klein makes an offer that's hard to refuse!

"For the record, if Republicans will give health-care reform a vote -- just a vote! -- if I quit my job, I'll quit tomorrow."

LOL!!!

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Before this deem and pass rule thing came up, how many people remembered that the repiglicans used it before to pass the tobacco ban (so the southerners could go back to tobacco land and say they didn't vote for the ban)? Honestly...who knew or remembered or cared for that matter?

The worst problem with blogging is that we get wrapped up in the process and inside congress issues. Whether the bill passes using deem and vote or vote and vote, no one outside the beltway will remember how HCR passed, so I disagree with Ezra on this that somehow using the deem and vote is somehow worse than the vote and vote strategy. Really, no one cares....except for a few rabid repiglican partisans on the intertubes.

Posted by: srw3 | March 16, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

What's hard to understand? The House thinks (rightly) that the Senate bill is a crap bill that protects the wealthy, taxes the middle class, and does nothing to hold down costs by presenting a publicly run alternative to a failed private health care market. Once you understand how much they hate it, it becomes more understandable (if not justifiable) why they might twist themselves into all kinds of procedural knots to avoid voting for it.

Posted by: redscott | March 16, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

precisioncontrol or rawlsian:

Why do you think think that "deem and pass" forces the Senate to do anything? Once a majority in the House "deem" the Senate bill as passed, Obama will undoubtedly sign it, even if the "reconciliation" bill doesn't pass the Senate.

Oh, what a tangled web they weave . . .

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

srw3:

It's not just Ezra (or the Republicans making this point). This latest scheme by House members to attempt to somehow escape political responsibility even drew the ire of the Washington Post editorial page, which (like Ezra himself) has strongly backed health care reform:

"What is intended as a final sprint threatens to turn into something unseemly and, more important, contrary to Democrats' promises of transparency and time for deliberation."

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

@VB: have been strangled by unions and their costs.
I guess you don't get to meet the home healthcare workers, janitors, and kitchen help etc. that have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet because they have no way to bargain collectively with their employers. They are too poor to get into your line of sight. For every "small business owner strangled by unions" there are tens of 1000s of working poor who could really use a bit of leverage keep employers from exploiting them by paying far less than a living wage. Union, YES.

Posted by: srw3 | March 16, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

@2jd2: Well so what if fox in 15th doesn't like it. Are you holding them out as some kind of liberal beacon? They supported the Iraq war and 2 rounds of budget busting tax cuts. Its still inside the beltway nonsense to 99% of Americans.

Time for deliberation? Haven't we spent the last year deliberating this?

There is no mystery created by this vote concerning who supports HCR and who doesn't. It doesn't matter

Posted by: srw3 | March 16, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

How about just 72 hours to actually READ the proposed "reconciliation" bill at least?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Ezra says, "It is impossible for me to understand why Democrats are so resolutely insistent on making this process harder and more stressful for themselves than it needs to be."

I can't see THAT the Dems are making this process harder or more stressful than it needs to be.

1) A vote for deem-and-pass will pass both the Senate bill and the fixes.
2) There are surely a few Congresscritters - maybe more than a few - who would prefer to vote for the fixes, so they can't be accused of voting for the Cornhusker Kickback and whatnot.
3) So it's probably easier to get to 216 for the deem-and-pass vote than it would be to get to 216 for both votes separately - especially the all-important vote on the Senate bill.
4) As I said yesterday, whatever campaign commercials their GOP challengers try to make about deem-and-pass will quickly devolve into 'he said, she said' territory about procedural minutiae, and will change a maximum of about 35 votes in any Congressional district.

Sounds like this is making things easier and less stressful for Dem Congresscritters.

Ezra, I just don't see that you've got a decent argument here.

Posted by: rt42 | March 16, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

rt42:

Did you think the same about John "I Voted for the Bill, Before I Voted Against It" Kerry?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I don't think Byron even has it right. It is not true (I don't think) that "the vote on the rule would also have the effect of passing the Senate bill." The rule will say that if the reconciliation measure passes the House, then the Senate bill will also be deemed passed. It would make no sense to simply incorporate the Senate Bill into the rule -- that would be no different than an up/down vote on the bill itself. The entire point (such as it is) is so the House can say that the Senate bill passes ONLY if the reconciliation fixes (i.e., the "sidecar") also passes.

Posted by: gedwards1 | March 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for taking so much time to explain this, but I must be dense, as I'm still having difficulty understanding the ins and outs of "deem and pass." Two questions: 1) why did the House consider doing this only after reconciliation was out of the question? I mean, if they were upset with the Senate's less liberal version, why didn't they just pass the Senate bill by amending its more liberal preferences through deem and pass? 2) More broadly, why couldn't the House do this for any bill in which they disagreed with the Senate version, rather than having their version compromised in conference with the House and Senate? Is only party discipline preventing this?

Posted by: sptm | March 16, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Yup, it's all about disarming future Republican (or Dem primary) simplistic attack ads. If a district is closely divided on the healthcare issue but not on pork, earmarks, etc., "My opponent VOTED FOR THE NEBRASKA CORNHUSKER GIVEAWAY" sounds way, way worse than "My opponent went along with a weirdo parliamentary loophole in order to pass healthcare reform."

Posted by: herzliebster | March 16, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why this is "harder and more stressful". It's one fewer vote, which means less time spent on the floor and less whipping by Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn (Or, by Ezra's math, two fewer votes, if we're counting the vote on the rule as a vote). It's a slimmed down and faster process, and we *know* what happens when the Democrats try to do something the methodical way. Rather than trying to keep the coalition together through two bills, they just need it in place for one.

Posted by: Diacritic | March 16, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

JakeD2 more stalling, same sh*t different day. It's not like repiglicans have any intention of voting for the bill, in any case.

Hey here's an idea. Let's have the senate filibuster every appointment so it takes 2 weeks to finally get the nomination to the floor and then approve it with a voice vote or an 80-20 margin. Oh wait...

Posted by: srw3 | March 16, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey, political junkies and trolls trying to rally support against HCR...

Newsflash: no one except you gives a crap about Deem and Pass.

I read Ezra every day and I barely give a crap myself.

But I must say, the amount of trolling, fear mongering and generally negative posting sure has gone through the roof. I hope that's a good sign that HCR will pass.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | March 16, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, can someone just explain it simply means the House will pass both the Senate Bill and the Reconciliation package in ONE go rather than seperately? I think this is making an argument about whether the 2 presents wrapped in one piece of gift wrap is one present or two; it just irrelevant except if anyone tries to be disingenious about it.

Posted by: CKH2 | March 16, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

This is such a bad idea. If they do this - you can count on the GOP filing an injunction against this law taking effect and months or years of fighting in court over this unnecessary procedural move. Best case scenario - it keeps the ugliness of the fight going for months. This is definitely a loser for the Dems. Please pass this along to the Democratic leadership. "Call the vote" Call the bluff of your Democratic "allies" - punish the no votes if you lose. There is no graceful way out other than 2 votes. "I'm just a bill..."

Posted by: ejhansen71 | March 16, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Over a year ago Obama got into bed with the drug companies to cut a "back room" deal.

http://theohiolaborlawyers.wordpress.com/

Ever since then, it is one back room deal after another. This bill stinks and should be defeated!

Posted by: N369RM | March 16, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

BHeffernan1 - Spot on. Nobody cares about these process issues and since all of them have been used just as much, if not more, by Republicans than Democrats all this whining by the GOP is pure hypocrisy.

Posted by: nisleib | March 16, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Let me see if I understand this "deem and pass" right.

Let's say tomorrow Obama decides that he wants to be President for Life, therefore that a new 'transformational' law has to be in place which eliminates Elections and Terms altogether.

People protests in opposition to the 'bill', public opinion soars, polling numbers sink, but Congress still manage to pass the bill in both senate and house after bribing its members against the will of the majority; then suddenly one of its member dies and so they lose filibustering proof; a new senator is elected and the supermajority privileged is finished.

So the same people who proposed a supermajority approval for this kind of 'law' now, lacking the magic number, changes the rules to only 51 using reconciliation. When the 51 number is no longer, then they simply decide to impose the law anyway now using a "deem" because after all, is not 'process' what matters, (that was just for 'show' to give it some kind of 'democratic looks') just the final result; in this hypothetical case, the result would be replacing a Democracy with a Dictatorship.

Now someone explain to me, how this abuse of power and tyrannic way of governing in the HC case couldnt be applied the same way to the example above?

Posted by: CuriousCitizen | March 16, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I don't blame Pelosi for doing whatever it takes to bring some hesitant Reps on board, but I just want to know who these idiots are that think this trick is going to insulate them from political heat for their vote.

Posted by: gedwards1 | March 16, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I'll have some of whatever drugs CuriousCitizen is on, please.

Posted by: gedwards1 | March 16, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Ezra's puzzle: "It is impossible for me to understand why Democrats are so resolutely insistent on making this process harder and more stressful for themselves than it needs to be."

I'm beginning to suspect it's because as a legislative caucus they hate themselves. This is perfectly comprehensible to me, since I am a Democrat and I am coming to hate Democrats--and thus must hate myself.

Posted by: danevt | March 16, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody else remember the President's talking point from just week urging an a simple "up or down vote" on the bill. Presumably he was trying to cast the reconcilation process seem a reasonable alternative to the filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. Well, this week the Dems are arguing that a straightforward up-or-down vote is an unreasonable standard to expect of the House. Instead they will be deeming the legislation into law.

Whatever the legality of the parliamentary strategems it's impossible to avoid the conclusion that they stink to high heaven. Be careful what you wish for Dems!

Posted by: tbass1 | March 16, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

I think you are missing a point. I think it likely that the whip count has concluded that the votes don't exist for an up or down vote on the Senate bill. If this is the case, deem and pass is the only solution.

I happen to agree with your analysis that this is a politically inferior solution and opens Dems up to more rather than fewer attacks in the fall. But it may well be that there is no option at this point for the speaker

Posted by: sjc1741 | March 16, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are in a bind because they put their faith in a weak-kneed president who can't move public opinion to his side on his own and gambled on his party's majority in Congress forcing it through rather than on seeking a bipartisan bill that might be narrower in scope but which could be passed. Now they have to revert to procedural shenanigans to get the thing through. If this bill truly reflected the will of the American people, it would stand on a straightforward up or down vote. This is why people hate Washington! Obama seems to forget he was elected president of the United States, not president of the Blue States.

Posted by: Illini | March 16, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

well gedwards1, but you could at least answer the question right? instead of spinning it...
why did this admin wasted more than a year in this process if at the end the would still force it on people via the deempassed...? and couldnt they then use it for anything else: elevating the Messiah to King, prosecuting all Conservatives, Eliminating elections, etc, etc etc...

We all know the reason for all this is simply for narcissism, to say the 'achieved' something and to justify the grandiosity of Obama... that's all it is. Even Obama's own 'consultants' like Warren Buffet has called for scratching this crappy bill!

Posted by: CuriousCitizen | March 16, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

300 vs 165 Million

Insurmountable odds? Not in the land of Washington. It is unprecedented that so few would go against the intense opposition of the many. Government has become the land of the self-serving and Congress is no longer the body that represents the electorate.

ObamaCare has become the Holy Grail of the left comprised of the entitlement class, the educated elite, unions, and Hollywood. More and more education is being used as the indoctrination center for a philosophy that America is not the land of opportunity, rather it is the land of entitlement and "social justice".

While Obama can sing the siren song of one woman's plight, I can sing another about how my son who has spent over a decade slowly building his business that provides hope and change to those that work for him will face attacks that will be unprecedented. At a time when we need more jobs, ObamaCare will insure that Matt will hire fewer.

Scott Brown's election could not have sent a clearer message. A majority of America intensely does not want ObamaCare and the expansion and further intrusion of government. America has already done an "up and down" vote. It is time for Congress to mirror the vote of those who sent them there in the first place.

Posted by: 5280sail | March 16, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

I hate to say it but you're totally missing the boat on this one. You're going on the assumption that the Senate bill would be ok to pass even without the reconciliation fixes. The House sees it as unpassable. Even though it might seem only to you like a symbolic gesture, the fact is that House members want to be able to say to their constituents "I did not vote for the Senate bill" and for that statement not to be a lie. I know from where you're standing it seems like semantics, but these kinds of distinctions can make or break a campaign.

Posted by: dhs08 | March 16, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

sjc1741:

There are other "options". She could start shooting Representatives that won't vote "aye".

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Ezra finally grows a conscious and questions a proposed political maneuver to pass HCR reform. Then his loyal fans attempt to convince him it's alright. This blog is hilarious. I remember when Democrats liked democracy. Now we have progressives and neo-cons seeking its destruction.

Posted by: cprferry | March 16, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

cprferry:

I'm half expecting srw3 to claim that Pelosi murdering Representatives would be justified as well ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The Destruction of Democracy! Yes, it is true. The House passing HCR by two votes (one for the rule, one for the reconciliation bill), each one requiring a majority of the elected Representatives, coupled with the Senate having voted by a majority or even supermajority on the entire bill, will destroy the Republic as we know it. Finally we progressives will be able to install that socialist dictatorship we've always dreamed of.

Posted by: gedwards1 | March 16, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

BTW, isn't this unacceptable? The Parliamentarian ruled that the bill must become law before using reconciliation to correct the law.

http://cdn.rollcall.com/media/44110-1.html

You got to wonder if some of these Blue Dogs and moderate House Democrats survive November if they won't just switch parties. At every turn, Pelosi, Senate and Obama are throwing them under the bus. (And there's the very real possibility they may be stabbed in the back during the reconciliation process.)
It's too late to jump now in the primary fundraising process, but surely there's going to be some tense working relationships after all of this.

Posted by: cprferry | March 16, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

as per precisioncontrol:
"[T]he teenagers are the American People".
THAT speak volumes! No, we are CITIZENS, who have the right to vote out of office any politician. Sorry to ruin your little nanny-state fantasy!

Posted by: ham2 | March 16, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't pResident Obama's latest "deadline" March 18th?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are just idiots.
Morons.
This is idiotic.
Just pass the damn Senate bill in the House and then go on to fix what needs to be fixed.
Let's see Republicans vote against getting rid of the sweet deals and changing the excise tax rate.
That will be rich.
"OH we were against it, but now we are for it"

Posted by: vintagejulie | March 16, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

It's not easy to dig up all the information, but I find that the differences between the 6 instances since the late 80's where this technique has been used and the current proposal are stark indeed.

I suspect that Klein did not expect anyone to look at them carefully (perhaps he didn't even look at them carefully), because they really don't help the argument that this is business as usual.

The highlights:

-despite the claim that some of these were controversial issues, these self-executing rules were generally approved either by voice vote or by pretty wide margins with reasonable support from both sides of the aisle: 259-169, 233-152 are a couple that I was able to find the counts on.

-without exception these are pretty substantial bills with only a single small part being added or subtracted. Nothing like the gymnastics that's going to have to happen this time around.

-as far as I can tell, none of these instances involved legislation passed through the budget reconciliation process.

...and the kicker:

-if I understand correctly, every one of these self-executing rules applies to the amendment of a HOUSE bill. That seems completely different from adding amendments to a Senate bill--much less messy.

I'm no legislative scholar, so perhaps I'm mistaken about some of the details, but the above seems pretty obvious to me.

Posted by: duder2 | March 16, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Typically, the media is glossing over (with merely one phrase in this piece - not even a full sentence) the fact that NONE OF THIS WOULD BE HAPPENING if the GOP had the slightest desire to help the American people fix an utterly out-of-control corporate collusion operation known as the "health insurance industry".

But they have other priorities. Who knows that they are, beyond "getting into power" by making the Dems look ineffectual - with great help from the media which continues to hammer this distorted message.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 16, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Dear "tea partiers":

I sure hope none of you "free market freedom fighters" used a public road or street to get to work today. That's socialism. Hard-earned tax dollars were spent just to help your sorry rear end get to work, you pampered leach. Why can't you build your OWN road, you lazy parasite? Why do *I* have to pay for roads I don't even use?? Stop leaching off me, losers.

Sincerely,

The American Majority

Posted by: B2O2 | March 16, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

--------------------------------------
Dear "tea partiers":

I sure hope none of you "free market freedom fighters" used a public road or street to get to work today. That's socialism. Hard-earned tax dollars were spent just to help your sorry rear end get to work, you pampered leach. Why can't you build your OWN road, you lazy parasite? Why do *I* have to pay for roads I don't even use?? Stop leaching off me, losers.

Sincerely,

The American Majority
--------------------------------------
C'mon, you can do better than that...

I'm certainly not a "partier" of any kind, but it would be hard to argue that we don't pay more than enough taxes for roads, prisons, police, military, and other basics that were certainly envisioned by the men who built our republic.

I agree that there are some people out there who are hypocritical, but your perbole doesn't make that case very well.

Posted by: duder2 | March 16, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

B2O2:

Keep in mind, in 2003 and 2005, if DEMOCRATS hadn't filibustered, Republicans wouldn't have threatened the "nuclear option" either. This goes both ways, my friend.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

^Of course it goes both ways, and there's a fair amount of hypocrisy on but sides of this issue.

It's worth noting, though, that while the Pubs threatened the "nuclear option", they didn't actually do it. Also, at the heart of at least one of those impasses over Democrat filibusters, the issue was simply voting on Supreme Court nominees, right? It's arguable, but to me holding up hearings on immenently qualified Supreme Court nominees strictly because they weren't ideologically aligned with the Democrats is a serious perversion of process in and of itself.

Also, like it or hate it, the bipartisan "gang of 14" mediated the dispute and got it resolved without the collateral damage of bypassing the filibuster. When a similar proposal was made by McCain for the healthcare impasse, it was roundly rejected by the Democrats.

Yeah, I agree that it's comparable, but there is certainly a difference in terms of the degree of subversion...

Posted by: duder2 | March 16, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

duder2:

I completely agree (in fact, one could argue that the GOP had more justification for pulling the trigger because the Senate was not fulfilling its "advise and consent" role per the Constitution; there's no similar requirement for taking a vote on Obamacare, no matter how important of legislation the Dems may think it is ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 16, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Can you imagine how toxic Obamacare is to moderate Democrats that they will resort to this kind of trickery to get them to vote/not-vote for it. What an inspiration in courage.

Posted by: RobT1 | March 16, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

It is easy to understand why the Democrats are proceeding this way: They are cowards.

Posted by: Drumfire | March 16, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

what is wrong,democrats should vote this in, next day, they will be standing in line at Bethesda- who is the first in line, Nancy, you barged in line, no!! NO,
why do not have enough medical personnel, they are on leave- a special day off, HR go back to Vegas and try your hand at gambling, Obama, Sir, we only have an intern on duty, the only one

Posted by: jayrkay | March 16, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Reconciliation is simple enough: Republicans insist on filibustering and Democrats want the health-care reform fixes to have an up-or-down vote. If Republicans wouldn't filibuster, Democrats wouldn't use reconciliation. It's as simple as that.
***********
Sorry Ezra, the filibuster was used more by the Dems from 2002-2008. Were you so blunt in your reporting then?

"Democrats insist on filibustering and Republicans want the Social Security reform fixes to have an up-or-down vote. If Democrats wouldn't filibuster, Republicans wouldn't use reconciliation. It's as simple as that."

Would you ever write that? Didn't think so.

Also, predictably leaves out that some Dems even admit that reconciliation was never intended for such a far reaching piece of legislation - not strictly affecting the budget.

Posted by: dnara | March 16, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

BARKING-DOG MAD


Unlike some of the WaPo columnists -- WE ARE ADULTS!!

WE GOT BRAINS!!

THIS STINKS!!

START OVER!!

Posted by: russpoter | March 16, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Those instances of "deem and pass" cited by the CRS report had to do with the House adopting rules to amend insignificant House Bills, NOT Senate Bills. Moreover, none of those "deemed and passed" resolutions were subsequently put into reconciliation.

This "deem and pass" fig leaf will never hide the illegitimacy of this process from the American electorate. I almost wish they'd try it. But I don't want to live in the Banana Republic of America, so I am left hoping they'll come to their senses.

Posted by: bgmma50 | March 16, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

=========================================
Those instances of "deem and pass" cited by the CRS report had to do with the House adopting rules to amend insignificant House Bills, NOT Senate Bills. Moreover, none of those "deemed and passed" resolutions were subsequently put into reconciliation.
=========================================
That's certainly what it looked like to me as well. To be fair, I don't know if the bills themselves were insignificant, but the amendments didn't seem like a big deal and neither did they seem like they'd be especially partisan (as the vote tallies that I was able to find implied).

The most important twist to this process is the fact that they'd skip the part where the Senate bill actually gets signed into law. I have yet to see evidence that this has ever happened before.

Perhaps the left is correct that people don't care about process...unless they don't like the bill, which it certainly seems is the case. Give them something they want through a crooked process, and nobody cares (although they certainly should). Force something on them that most people don't want with an twisted process, and all of a sudden it becomes a really serious issue.

Posted by: duder2 | March 16, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I totally don't understand Klein's point about the House "making it more difficult than it has to be". I guess he thinks they should simply pass the Senate bill and go through the normal reconciliation channels?

Well, I would agree and so would most, but the problem is that they obviously CAN'T. Am I missing something? It's not that difficult--they just don't have the votes without the Stupak bloc and others who refuse to trust the Senate's desire or ability to get their proposed fixes through the reconciliation process.

Posted by: duder2 | March 16, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I dont think that "deem and pass" is about political cover. Its too silly to accomplish that. I think its more about institutional anger of the House Dems against the Senate and so they want to pass the Senate bill in their own special way. I find this all rather silly, but clearly legal. This is called a "self-executing rule" for a reason. Passing the rule passes the law and voting for the rule is a vote to pass the law, in this case, the Senate bill(so long as the reconciliation bill also passes the House). Otherwise, it couldnt become law. Every Dem who votes for the rule is voting to pass the law. Instead of engaging in a silly process discussion, Dems should respond to all questions of this by saying that this will be a vote to pass health care reform and leave it at that.

Posted by: gregspolitics | March 16, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Did I miss something? When I was a kid and School House Rock came on the TV on Saturday morning with the cute little Bill who explained how he became a Law, I don’t remember seeing the part about “I’m just a Deem. Yes, I’m only a Deem…” How can the Dems (henceforth to be called the Deemocrats) change the Constitution like this? Every school kid who saw School House Rock knows how a Bill becomes Law, so why don’t the Deemocrats? http://patrioticmobster.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/im-just-a-deem-yes-im-only-a-deem/

Posted by: PresidentSuit | March 17, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

OMG!

This is a defining moment, Ezra the "partisan puppet" didn't toe the party line. WoW!! I am shocked...

Posted by: Magox | March 17, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

BARKING-DOG MAD

Mad yes you are (as in a few cards short of a deck), start over, no. repiglicans had 6 years to do something to fix health care. Instead they added to medicare without paying for it, and the number of uninsured went up every year. Start over?

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,
I was just remembering a few days back when you took the WH's little talking point about how support for reform has grown. You based this on one poll you found that wasn't too bad (-2). Well check the polls that have come out since. I'll give you a hint about the results: You won't be writing articles breaking them down the way you did for that one favorable one.

Posted by: josettes | March 17, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Scott Brown's election could not have sent a clearer message.

Scott brown didn't win a national election. All politics is local. I didn't hear the repiglicans crowing about learning a lesson when they lost a house seat that had been republican for the last 120 years or when they lost the Oregon special election. On scott brown night, dems actually won more congressional elections than the repubs did.

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

@jd2: again your ignorance is showing. Using reconciliation is applying a law passed in 1974, that has been used more by repiglicans than dumbocrats. the nuclear option, that is changing senate rules in the middle of a congressional session, has never been attempted much less done in the history of the republic. Just because both actions circumvent obstruction by filibuster by the minority party does not make them in any way equivalent in precedent or in substance. Learn this and stop embarrassing yourself.

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Deem and pass really doesn't make any difference. Whether a congresscritter votes for the rule or the senate bill and sidecar, the senate bill is getting an up or down vote. No one, for good or ill, will be able to vote for the bill and then say "I don't support HCR" or vote against it and say "I support HCR." There is no obfuscation of where the congresscritter stands. The only thing that changes is the optics of voting for the cornhusker kickback and louisiana purchase before amending it away. It takes away a few juicy attack ads, but don't worry, repiglicans have plenty more lies to use to try and defeat dumbocrats. Its all inside the beltway nonsense in the final analysis.

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 2:05 AM | Report abuse

@vb: The world moved from defined benefit to defined contribution benefit plans some time ago.

How did that work out for folks ready to retire with their 401ks worth 20-40% less than they were 2 years ago?

The defined contribution system is clearly inadequate as a way to guarantee retirement security. Defined benefit plans would have been OK if companies had fully funded them instead of shorting them to hand out dividends, etc.

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 2:09 AM | Report abuse

@ CuriousCitizen: You are kidding, right. I mean this has to be snark, because no one is so ignorant, uninformed, and/or dimwitted about separation of powers, the constitution, etc. to think that somehow congress could vote to create a dictator. Wait, are you a repiglican? I take it all back.

Posted by: srw3 | March 17, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse

srw3,

anyone that had money in anything risky that was near retirement age wasn't paying attention correctly to how they should have been allocated.

And i think state budget shortfalls prove that defined benefit strategies are unsustainable.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 17, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand why "deem and pass", aka the self executing rule, provides any cover for Democrats. Seriously. The vote on the rule BECOMES the vote on the unamended Senate bill. If people insist on being dense, the "voted for it before I voted against it" still applies.

Thanks for the column, Ezra. You rock process.

Posted by: Puddin34 | March 17, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

The political cover idea is nonsense. The reason House Dems HAVE to do deem-and-pass is because they are simply not confident that the Senate will, can, or wants to implement all the changes they want.

If they don't pass it, they force the Senate to put the reconciliation bill on paper before they vote. House Dems simply don't have the votes to pass the Senate bill without this kind of ironclad agreement to the changes in advance.

Of course, I'm not so sure that even if they Dems can and want to do deem-and-pass that the Senate can or will get the required changes done. How does the Senate move to amend a bill that hasn't been passed?

How much power to control the changes can or will they give to House Dems? If they agree to a reconciliation bill and it still doesn't have the votes in the House, what then? Without a satisfactory answer to this question, will they even bother trying?

This is not just shaky on the House side, I think it's at least as questionable for the Senate.

Posted by: duder2 | March 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I think it’s reasonable to assume (ha ha) the entire US population does not agree… so I do not understand why this has to be a national issue forced on everyone and if they can’t convince you, tuff sh!t.
If California or Illinois has state paid medical and I wanted that – I would move there. If I didn’t want it… I wouldn’t. It doesn’t take 300 million people paying into a system to provide a buffer, and it doesn’t take a Federal law to do any of this crap they are trying to do.
My 2 cents - I hate waht they are doing

Posted by: Rotrow | March 17, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

The way I see it, 'Deem and Pass' is like a letter of credit or a banker's guarantee. The House does not want to pass the unamended bill and run the risk of the Senate not passing the amendments. What D&P does is this. If the Senate does not pass the amendment bill, the Health Care bill does not pass.
That guarantees that the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase will never become law, even for a fleeting moment. Representatives will not have voted for those, and Senators would have effectivey reversed those provisions.

Posted by: jidooka | March 19, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

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