Democrats now believe that they have enough votes to pass the Senate health care bill without using the deem and pass rule. Republicans strongly criticized Democrats for planning to use the self-executing rule during today’s Rules Committee hearing, even after Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) implied earlier this afternoon that the party had already abandoned the strategy:
WAXMAN: We’re not going to deem the Senate bill as passed. We’re going to pass the Senate bill. We’re going to pass it by a vote of the House, that’s the way a bill becomes law. You’ll figure out a way to do the rule, but when you establish the rule we will be required to vote for the rule, required to vote for the amendments, an amendment will have to be approved before its carried and the rule approved before it’s approved, that’s the way we operate.
Later in the afternoon, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) asked Democrats if they would take a separate vote on the Senate health care bill. “I believe that there has been significant discussion. I want to thank the House leadership for indicating to a number of us that that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) explained.
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The last minute change seems to suggest that Democrats expect to have a cushion of votes in the final tally and don’t need to use the rule in order to please members who refuse to directly vote for the Senate bill.
Democrats may have also reached some kind of compromise with pro-life Democrats. Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House would not vote on a separate side-bar abortion bill, but said that Democrats are “considering winning crucial support from abortion foes for health care overhaul legislation with an executive order by President Barack Obama.” The order – which does not require congressional approval – would be aimed at reflecting long-standing law barring federal aid for abortions except for cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is threatened.”
Under the new rule, Democrats would cast three separate votes: a vote on the rule, the reconciliation package and the Senate bill.
Jonathan Cohn reports via Twitter: “Hoyer explains rule: 2 hour debate on reconciliation, then vote, then vote on senate bill #hcr”