Jonathan Chait argues that political reporters and bloggers have failed to “fully explain” deem and pass “to their readers and put them in the proper context.” Well, this morning on Good Morning America, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) explained the rule in some very clear terms:
HOYER: We are going to have a clean up or down vote on the Senate bill, that will be on the rule. This is a procedure, by the way, that was used almost 100 times under Newt Gingrich and over 100 times by Speaker Hastert, which my friend Mr. Cantor supported most of the time, if not all of the time. So this is not an unusual procedure. We’re going to vote on a rule. It’s simply like a conference report. Conference report comes back. You vote on it, with amendments.
Unfortunately, the Republicans are a little bit like the boy who killed his two parents and then wants sympathy because he’s an orphan. They’ve tried to stop the passage of this bill. Slowed it up. Wouldn’t agree to go to conference, so what we’re going to do is report out what essentially is a conference report with amendments. So we’ll vote on the Senate bill in the rule and we will amend the Senate bill in the process…
Cantor sheepishly smiled at Hoyer and ultimately agreed. “Yes, Steny is right. The rules of the House allow for this type of deeming provision, it’s called a self-executing provision which means that once the bill, the rule for the next bill passes, the Senate bill is automatically is deemed as having passed,” he said. As Norman Ornstein points out, “that strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration.”
Now, House Democrats are using it for two reasons. 1) They don’t want to vote for the Senate health care bill (which, as I argue here is a bit of a self-indulgence) and 2) Republicans won’t vote for cloture on the conference report.
Remember, if Republicans really believed that this rule is so unconstitutional — which Cantor actually backed away from asserting this morning — or that passing health care reform would undermine the Democratic party, then they would preserve our founding document and bolster their prospects in the midterm election by voting to “move forward.” After all, they vote for cloture on things they don’t like all the time (on March 10th Sen. Scott Brown voted against a bill extending health benefits after voting for cloture to allow the legislation to move forward a day earlier). Here, they’re choosing to continue obstructing reform and forcing the Democrats’ hand.