Dana Milbank writes on the Slaughter Rule fight (which, to the Democrats’ dismay, is now transforming the final week’s health-care debate into a nationwide argument over the Democrats’ desperation tactics):
Republicans are demanding an up-or-down vote in the House on the full bill — never mind that they spent the better part of a year opposing an up-or-down vote on that very measure in the Senate. Democrats have come up with the inelegantly named Slaughter Solution of “deeming” and “self-executing rules” — never mind that they once argued (unsuccessfully) that such a technique was unconstitutional.
Oh, puhleez. Certainly Milbank and the Washington Post‘s readers know the difference between the Senate, where the norm is to require that legislation get by the filibuster, and the House, where the norm is to actually vote on the bill. But the false equivalence disguises just how unprincipled and unsustainable is the Democratic tricksterism. Milbank contends that the hue and cry raised by Republicans is just more gamesmanship and political obstructionism. He cracks in conclusion: “Slaughtering the rules? Well, maybe. But you think that will stop Democrats from finally getting health-care reform passed? You must be deeming.”
Well, maybe. But the problem for the Democrats is twofold. First, they have to pass the bill. The parliamentary stunt is proving embarrassing for the very members who must cast the decisive votes. But more important, if it passes, the Slaughter Rule is going to join the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase in the pantheon of disreputable deals and gambits that Republicans will run against — this year and until the whole shebang is repealed. The public proved exceptionally interested — contrary to the Democrats’ back-of-the-hand denial that voters care about “process” — in those backroom special deals. It was after all a central theme in Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.
Why have the Democrats become ensnared in process and legitimacy questions all over again? Well, the “merits” of the bill aren’t sufficient to persuade the Democratic caucus of this legislation’s desirability or political utility in helping them keep their seats. So they resort to the same sleights of hand that helped lift Scott Brown into the Senate. The Slaughter Rule might help pass the bill, but its stench will greatly aid the Republicans’ argument that this is a noxious piece of legislation, arrived at by illegitimate means.