Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It's become clear over the last few days that Democrats want to pass the Senate health care bill in the House under a procedure called the self-executing rule, or deem-and-pass, which means they'll declare the bill passed and won't actually conduct a vote on it. I love the naivete of this from Ezra Klein, a summary of Nancy Pelosi's thinking on the subject:

This is all about plausible deniability for House members who don't want to vote for the Senate bill....

Really? How about deniability for House members who don't want to have participated in a process that -- once GOP messaging has gone nationwide -- is going to be seen as reeking of high-handedness and contempt for democratic procedures?

Look, Republicans are going to try to turn health care reform into a constitutional crisis no matter what. As it is, lawmakers in more than two thirds of the states are trying to challenge the health care mandate or other provisions of the bill. But using this procedure -- which Republicans say is unconstitutional ...

...conservatives warned that Pelosi's use of deem-and-pass in this way would run afoul of the Constitution. They pointed to a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that said each house of Congress must approve the exact same text of a bill before it can become law. A self-executing rule sidesteps that requirement, former federal appellate judge Michael McConnell argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

... just makes the task of ginning up a constitutional crisis infinitely easier -- and not just because far-right Republican presidents have appointed most of the federal judges who'd hear any challenges.

Our side doesn't understand that the right has figured out how to turn political anger into popular entertainment -- at least for the like-minded. The right has made more Republicans by training right-leaning citizens to turn to talk radio and Fox the way other people turn to HBO or Netflix, for fun. As a result, those citizens really keep up with politics, or at least politics Limbaugh/Fox style.

Right-wing message disseminators are already describing this procedure as the "Slaughter Solution," after Louise Slaughter, the House Rules chair. This crowd -- and some swing voters who also find this programming entertaining -- will get this argument. They'll find it exciting and infuriating. And they're still going to be talking about it in November 2010, and November 2012, just as they were talking about "back room deals" all through Scott Brown's campaign.

I'd add that violent wingnuts are also going to develop an unhealthy fixation on this vote -- the next right-wing crazy who attempts or commits political terrorism will have mentioned this vote specifically in his Web rantings. No, you can't let violent paranoids dictate your actions as a legislator. But nonviolent paranoids are another story. The right has created a lot of them, and they're going to march, and call for impeachment, and offer support to demagoguing state legislators and attorneys general who want to sue over this law, and vote in big numbers in November.

I hope the benefits of the procedure outweigh all that.

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