Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 15, 2010

PELOSI VISION OF THE ROAD AHEAD.... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat down this morning with nine bloggers/reporters to share some thoughts on the fate of health care reform, as the effort enters what may be its final week.

As Pelosi characterized it, the process is on track. "I have no intention of not passing this bill," she said. "Let me say it in a positive way: I have faith in my members that we will be passing this legislation." Speaking to the tensions between the chambers, the Speaker added, "We're...willing to trust the Senate that they are able to pass the reconciliation package."

Pelosi also if/when the reform package passes, additional steps are on the way. "Kick open that door, and there will be other legislation to follow," she said. "We'll take the country in a new direction."

But of particular interest, the Speaker also talked a bit about exactly how reform might pass the House. Ezra explained that Pelosi is eyeing a "deem and pass" strategy.

Here's how that will work: Rather than passing the Senate bill and then passing the fixes, the House will pass the fixes under a rule that says the House "deems" the Senate bill passed after the House passes the fixes.

The virtue of this, for Pelosi's members, is that they don't actually vote on the Senate bill. They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn't voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.

Why bother with this? House Dems who might want to support health care reform don't necessarily want to vote for weaker elements of the Senate bill -- elements like the "Cornhusker Kickback," which are coming out through the budget fix anyway -- and would rather pass it without a formal up-or-down vote. It's easier, they believe, to "deem" it passed and then vote on the reconciliation measure, rather than go on record voting in support of the Senate package. (If this seems a little excessive to you, we're on the same page.)

What would happen if "deem and pass" works? Two things: (1) the Senate bill would then go to the White House to be signed into law; and (2) the House-approved reconciliation fix would go to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. With 51 votes, the Senate would the send the fix to Obama for his signature, and health care reform would be complete.

The alternative -- which, frankly, I thought was more likely -- was for the House to vote twice: once on the Senate bill and once on the "sidecar." Pelosi, almost certainly responding to pressure from her caucus members, prefers "deem and pass," which makes it the more likely avenue.

And with that, the search for 216 continues.

Steve Benen 2:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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Politically, "deem and pass" seems a mixed bag.

The upshot, surely, is that in districts where HCR is less popular the Rep can honestly say "I only voted for it with changes -- like the removal of special treatment for Nebraska!"

On the other hand, the R's and the MSM will go nuts about the "procedural trickery."

I suppose that story gets buried to some degree in the news about HCR passing in general, but it still seems to make a handful of Rep's political lives easier at the cost of a small dimunition in PR for the Dem caucus (and Obama) as a whole.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 15, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats, spineless weasels to the end.

Oh well, as long as the end is passing the damn bill.

Posted by: martin on March 15, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Is it true the Senate only needs votes from 50 Senators for the reconciliation vote, because if need be, Vice President Biden can be the 51st vote?

Posted by: Andrea on March 15, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the usual suspects at volokh.com are losing their minds completely over this "deemed" stuff. (By which I means that the actual lawyers posting articles are skeptical, and the wingers in the commentariat are threatening armed revolution.)

Posted by: DonBoy on March 15, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

My assumption was that the ‘self-actuating’ part of these bills don’t self-actuate until the enveloping legislation becomes law, meaning that the House would not have been deemed to have passed the Senate bill until after the Senate passes the reconciliation fixes and Obama signs that into law.

If the Senate doesn’t pass the fixes by reconciliation and get signed by Obama, then the Senate bill will NOT be deemed to have passed the House.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 15, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Deem" is a sorely underused word, a rare gateway into the English subjunctive.

I deem it right and proper that we all try to use "deem" more often in everyday speech.

Posted by: Matt on March 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know the number of votes, at this point in time, Obama can reliably count on? Right now, how far short of the 216 is he?

Posted by: BetteB on March 15, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Roses for Pelosi when she gets this done.

Posted by: Scott F. on March 15, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

How many tricks to they have in that bag? Is there one that passes legislation without anybody voting?

Posted by: Kevin on March 15, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Andrea -- you're correct. Al Gore cast the 51st vote for Clinton's 1993 budget under reconciliation, for instance. That said, I doubt it will be an issue in this case; I suspect the vote for the reconciliation fix will be well over 50 votes.

Posted by: Tenzil Kem on March 15, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Tenzil Kem, thanks so much for your reply. :-)

Posted by: Andrea on March 15, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Deem and pass is one of the tools to pry away some of Stupak's bloc and particularly some of the Progressive votes having a hard time swallowing the Senate bill. Instead of 216-217 for the Senate bill, deem and pass will likely have 220-225 votes, which has better optics. This is politics; optics matter.

If you listen carefully, even the Public Option is said to not be added _at this time_. If the reaction to insurers raising rates builds, expect it to be presented later to put the Republicans on record in favor of usurious insurance rates. Dodd is already about to force 41 Republicans to raise their hand and swear allegiance to Bank of America.

Patience is hard but it pays dividends. Polosi and the White House are pacing the effort to have momentum when it counts in November. The Republicans timing is 9 to 10 months off, pushed ahead by the Teabaggers and by their own arrogance to move too fast and peak last month.

Posted by: OKDem on March 15, 2010 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK



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