House Democrats’ Healthcare Reform Plans Are Unconstitutional

The clever end game doesn’t pass the smell test.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies, in an effort to be clever, have overstepped their constitutional bounds. The plan they have put forward for getting Senate-passed healthcare legislation through the House is, according to one prominent constitutional scholar, “unconstitutional.” Writing in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Michael McConnell, the former federal appellate judge who is now director of the prestigious Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, explains that the path Pelosi and company have staked out to move the bill to the finish line doesn’t pass the smell test.

To become law—hence eligible for amendment via reconciliation—the Senate health-care bill must actually be signed into law. The Constitution speaks directly to how that is done. According to Article I, Section 7, in order for a “Bill” to “become a Law,” it “shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate” and be “presented to the President of the United States” for signature or veto. Unless a bill actually has “passed” both Houses, it cannot be presented to the president and cannot become a law.

The House and Senate can, to be sure, establish their own rules of procedure and, after all, have the final word as to many of the critical activities that occur within them--such as who may or may not be seated. But, as McConnell writes, they “cannot dispense with the bare-bones requirements of the Constitution. Under Article I, Section 7, passage of one bill cannot be deemed to be enactment of another.”

In their rush to pass healthcare, to get it done on deadline after almost 18 months of partisan politicking and pork barrel, the Democrats have now decided to shred the Constitution.

This was not the kind of change America voted for.

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