In a recent comment, one of our perennial critics, Tano, makes a somewhat cogent defense of Slaughter Rule, a defense which works only if it works out as he says it will. First, here’s the defense:
What they are trying to avoid – what the whole “deem passed” maneuver is about is their hope to avoid a recorded vote on the UNAMENDED Senate version of the bill. The one with all the Cornhusker – Lousiana stuff in it – y’know the stuff that is coming OUT of the bill. The problem for them, is that they have to vote FOR the Senate bill before they can amend the Senate bill. So technically – they have to vote in favor of all the things that they are going to vote against a day later – things they do not support.
Now, if the House could “deem” the Senate bill passed as part of their actual vote on the amendments (pulling out the Cornhusker Kickback et al.) and then the Senate revisit the whole package (as passed by the House) before the president signs it, this whole process would pass constitutional muster (even if it is a bad bill) . House Democrats wouldn’t be on the record backing Cornhusker and the Senate would have to vote on the whole thing (its bill plus amendments) before it become law.
But, here’s the problem. If the House deems the Senate bill passed, then (I’m assuming) that bill would exist independently of all the amendments passed in the House, meaning the president can sign it and it becomes law without the Senate even considering said amendments. (Where’s the guarantee the Senate will even vote on them?) Cornhusker Kickback and Louisiana Purchase along with a whole passel of payoffs become law.
And since the Senate can’t even begin to consider reconciliation (as per the parliamentarian’s recent ruling) until a bill becomes law, then every House member who accedes to the Democrats’ deeming will have allowed the kickback to become law.
Will the Senate want to move forward on those amendments once its bill has become law? Obama will have had his signing ceremony, the historic moment will have passed. Will he want to expend any more energy into getting the Senate to act on amendments crafted in the House? Will Senators?
That’s the main problem with the “deeming” solution. It’s a sure-fire way to make the Senate bill the law of the land, with no guarantee that the House “fixes” will even be considered.
UPDATE: Just after posting this piece, caught this memo from Hugh Nathanial Halpern, Rules Committee Republican Staff Director which pretty much confirms my point:
The only certainty for any Member who votes for a rule that “deems” or otherwise passes the Senate health care bill is that the Senate health care bill will become law. The “fixes” contained in reconciliation are subject to the Byrd Rule, amendment, and the other vagaries of the Senate process. The outcome of reconciliation is by no means certain.
Read the whole thing for his explanation of the history of “deeming.”