Signaling her growing desperation, Nancy Pelosi said Monday that a Rules Committee scheme to "deem" the healthcare bill as having passed the House without being voted on had won her support. "I like it," the speaker of the House told a roundtable of bloggers Monday, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill." For Pelosi, winning is no longer the most important thing. It has become the only thing--and apparently by any means necessary.
The White House and congressional Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talk like the changes they are proposing are wildly popular, that they have a mandate to implement them. Their behavior, by contrast, tells a different story.
The bill currently stuck in the House would, if enacted into law, bring about the most sweeping changes in the U.S. healthcare system since the creation of Medicare in 1965. It would require Americans to purchase health insurance, would fundamentally alter the medical marketplace, and place new government controls on insurers and healthcare providers that, many experts agree, would eventually lead to rationing as a method of controlling costs.
It is not an understatement to say that the more the American electorate learns about the bill the less they like it. Nevertheless, Reid and Pelosi have adopted the "my way or the highway" approach throughout the process of drafting and passing the bill, even going so far as to "high hat" the voters. Thinking they had enough Democrats in Congress to pass whatever they wanted without input from the GOP, and that they were backed by enough union muscle to get what they wanted, they eschewed compromise except at the extreme fringes, thinking that legislative success in this effort would cement their majority for a generation.
They were wrong; so much so that, win or lose, pass or fail, the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate are now, by most all accounts, imperiled, both because of what the legislation would do and because of the way it has been handled.
Seemingly blocked from bringing anything back up in the Senate, Pelosi has embraced a strategy proposed by Louise Slaughter, chairman of the House Rules Committee, that would allow her--and President Obama--to pretend the bill that passed the Senate last Christmas had now also passed the House. Through the use of a parliamentary maneuver known as "deeming," the House would accept a vote to pass a related piece of legislation as also having been a vote to pass the healthcare bill--which in theory gives members the opportunity to tell their constituents they didn't vote for the healthcare bill.
This is the kind of faulty logic that leads to a fool's errand.
In the first place, if the healthcare bill was as popular as the Democrats like to pretend it is, there would be no need for legislative subterfuge. Second, there will be plenty of people who will be ready to identify for the voters just which Democrats it was who voted to pass a bad and unpopular healthcare bill while voting for something else. And quite possibly these people will be willing to spend a lot of money on political ads next September and October to do so. It would then be left to those same Democrats to explain why that was not the case--even though the American electorate is not stupid; certainly not as stupid as Pelosi seems to think. They will see right through the parliamentary chicanery to the truth, with Pelosi herself having helped to load the gun.
All day Tuesday, the Republicans on Capitol Hill were busy trying to draw attention to a lawsuit filed several years ago by Public Citizen, a liberal group, that challenged the same kind of "deem and pass" scheme that Pelosi, Slaughter, and others are trying to use to get the healthcare bill to the president's desk.
Challenging the constitutionality of The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the group argued in its brief that:
Some constitutional provisions are open to interpretation. One constitutional requirement that is not ambiguous, however, is the requirement that every bill pass both houses of Congress before it can be presented to the President and become law. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 ("DRA") was presented to the President in violation of that requirement: The Senate passed one version of a bill, the House another, and then the Senate's version was presented to the President, who signed it. Under the Constitution, that bill has not become a law.
Onboard Public Citizen's brief as friends of the court were Pelosi, Slaughter, the now-disgraced former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charlie Rangel, and other senior Democrats who are now desperate to get the healthcare bill out the door. No matter. A foolish consistency, as Emerson once wrote, is the hobgoblin of little minds--and it would be foolish for Pelosi and her team to remain consistent at this point in time because it would prevent them from winning.