Category Archive 'Slaughter Solution'

19 Mar 2010

Obama Takes the Road to Demon Pass

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Peggy Noonan catches out Obama’s evasive manuevers and efforts to pull rank during an unusual interview this week on Fox News and in her own distinctive Celtic Bard manner produces an early draft of the epitaph for the current presidency.

[The interview Wednesday on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report With Bret Baier was] the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever. It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn’t want revealed, which is that he doesn’t want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety. At any rate, the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric. …

[T]he Baier interview was something, and right from the beginning. Mr. Baier’s first question was whether the president supports the so-called Slaughter rule, alternatively known as “deem and pass,” which would avoid a straight up-or-down House vote on the Senate bill. (Tunku Varadarajan in the Daily Beast cleverly notes that it sounds like “demon pass,” which it does. Maybe that’s the juncture we’re at.) Mr. Obama, in his response, made the usual case for ObamaCare. Mr. Baier pressed him. The president said, “The vote that’s taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform.” We shouldn’t, he added, concern ourselves with “the procedural issues.” …

And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn’t worth it—worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill. Never take the country down the road to Demon Pass.

Read the whole thing.

I must confess that I look forward to the weekend editions of the Wall Street Journal, in which these days Peggy Noonan can be expected to be found, hair disordered, rising threateningly from the mist, to intone, week after week, a new malediction or fatal prophecy aimed directly at Barack Obama.

It was not so very long ago that Peggy Noonan was supporting him. Peggy was one of the commentators on the right most firmly ensconsed in the establishment and, just like David Brooks, she was unable to resist the seductive appeal of Barack Obama’s pretense of dignity and moderation and his gift of gab.

When Obama proceeded to drop the veil of moderation, and revealed himself in practice to be a looting radical leftist determined to ram socialism down America’s throat, Peggy Noonan took the kind of personal offense that the Queen of Elfland might have taken when she discovered that the mortal who had gained her favor really intended to bulldoze her sacred grove and erect a strip mall.

Obama was extremely good at winning over the proudest and most cerebral of the center-right commentariat, and he has proven to be even better at disillusioning them and provoking their wrath.

16 Mar 2010

The Slaughter Solution: Deeming It Into Law

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How do you pass a wildly unpopular bill as your voting strength erodes and your coalition crumbles?

As the Hill explains, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D- 30 NY), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, has devised a bizarre stratagem, which is being referred to as the “Slaughter solution.” Democrats plan to vote in the Senate that they deem the Senate bill to have passed the House, when it actually has not been voted on by the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leaving the door open on using a controversial procedure to move healthcare through the House.

The process would allow the House to “deem” the Senate bill passed when it votes on a package of changes to that legislation, perhaps as early as this weekend.

The procedure involves crafting a rule allowing for consideration of a reconciliation “fixers” bill that deems the Senate bill already approved by the House. Aides to the Speaker said the option is “under consideration.”

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The only problem with all this is that it is flagrantly and outrageously unconstitutional.

Michael W. McConnell, a Constitutional Law professor at Stanford, explains the problem.

[The Slaughter solution] may be clever, but it is not constitutional. To become law—hence eligible for amendment via reconciliation—the Senate health-care bill must actually be signed into law. The Constitution speaks directly to how that is done. According to Article I, Section 7, in order for a “Bill” to “become a Law,” it “shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate” and be “presented to the President of the United States” for signature or veto. Unless a bill actually has “passed” both Houses, it cannot be presented to the president and cannot become a law.

To be sure, each House of Congress has power to “determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” Each house can thus determine how much debate to permit, whether to allow amendments from the floor, and even to require supermajority votes for some types of proceeding. But House and Senate rules cannot dispense with the bare-bones requirements of the Constitution. Under Article I, Section 7, passage of one bill cannot be deemed to be enactment of another.

The Slaughter solution attempts to allow the House to pass the Senate bill, plus a bill amending it, with a single vote. The senators would then vote only on the amendatory bill. But this means that no single bill will have passed both houses in the same form. As the Supreme Court wrote in Clinton v. City of New York (1998), a bill containing the “exact text” must be approved by one house; the other house must approve “precisely the same text.”

These constitutional rules set forth in Article I are not mere exercises in formalism. They ensure the democratic accountability of our representatives. Under Section 7, no bill can become law unless it is put up for public vote by both houses of Congress, and under Section 5 “the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question . . . shall be entered on the Journal.” These requirements enable the people to evaluate whether their representatives are promoting their interests and the public good. Democratic leaders have not announced whether they will pursue the Slaughter solution. But the very purpose of it is to enable members of the House to vote for something without appearing to do so. The Constitution was drafted to prevent that.

The final obstacle to democrat passage of the Health Care Bill may yet prove to be the Supreme Court.

If Obamacare is enacted via deeming as the Slaughter solution proposes, avoiding an actual vote on the Senate bill in the House, and Barack Obama goes ahead, signs it, and claims that it is now the law of the land, Republicans can walk right over to the Supreme Court and ask for a ruling on the constitutionality of deeming instead of voting. Any bets on how that is going to turn out?


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