Commentary Magazine


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Doubling Down on the Tricks

We started with the notion that health care was going to save money, be budget neutral, and be passed through a transparent process. Not one of these things is true about the current incarnation or the process. Indeed, “pass” is now a matter of great controversy. As the Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain:

New York Democrat Louise Slaughter, who chairs the House Rules Committee, may insert what’s known as a “self-executing rule,” also known as a “hereby rule.” Under this amazing procedural ruse, the House would then vote only once on the reconciliation corrections, but not on the underlying Senate bill. If those reconciliation corrections pass, the self-executing rule would say that the Senate bill is presumptively approved by the House—even without a formal up-or-down vote on the actual words of the Senate bill.

But don’t they have to vote on the bill? Oh, pish-posh, let’s not get hung up on constitutional niceties. There’s historic legislation to be passed … er … “hereby ruled” through the House. Yes, it sure is a sign that the bill is so noxious that lawmakers have to pretend they aren’t voting for it in order to, well, vote for it. (“We have entered a political wonderland, where the rules are whatever Democrats say they are. Mrs. Pelosi and the White House are resorting to these abuses because their bill is so unpopular that a majority even of their own party doesn’t want to vote for it.”)

Even Nancy Pelosi is trying to keep things vague, suggesting it may not come to this. But it is coming to this, because a desperate president and the equally desperate Democratic leadership fear losing, so they resort to tricks, backroom deals, and parliamentary sleights of hand. That’s in large part how the bill got to be so unpopular. Nevertheless, the Democrats seem intent on doubling down, so why not load up on the procedural gimmicks? At some point — now would be as good a time as any — saner Democratic heads may prevail and wonder why their leaders must shred the Constitution in order to pass a bill that’s supposedly such an electoral winner for their side.