You really couldn’t come up with a better name for the latest scheme the Democrats have come up with to pass health care. Absent the votes to actually pass this monstrosity, we’ll just slaughter the Republic and the Constitution and ram it through! But there seems to be some debate as to whether this mess is constitutional. Here are some thoughts on the matter, keeping in mind I’m far from an expert on these topics.
It would seems to me to be perfectly constitutional for the House to amend the Senate version, then send it back to the Senate, which the Senate will then pass and go on to the President. This path, however is closed by rule, since it would require 60 votes in the Senate to shut off debate on the bill, which the Democrats no longer have (thank you Massachusetts!). There’s also the political problem that Pelosi would no longer appear to have the votes necessary to pass anything called “Health Care” in the House.
My understanding of the Slaughter Solution is that they pass a reconciliation bill, along with a rule change that deems the Senate version to have been passed (even though it has not). The reconciliation bill then goes to the Senate under reconciliation rules, under which the terms of debate do not allow for the filibuster. The reconciliation bill, being signed by the President, then becomes the Health Care law. Now, there seems to be some question on whether, after the reconciliation bill passes the Senate, the House will then actually have a vote on the Senate bill, and if passed, both bills will be presented to the President for his signature or veto.
It would seem to me any law which is presented to Obama, not having passed both houses of Congress, would be pretty clearly unconstitutional. But is it judicable? In other words, can someone file suit. I think that yes, a minority of members of Congress could sue because they were denied their constitutional power to request a roll call vote. This is pretty explicitly in the constitution, and it would seem to be to be fairlyÂ unambiguous that this path would be unconstitutional, and the minority would have a means for invalidating the bill. The only counter argument I could see here is that, effectively, the House combined several questions into one vote, which is should be permitted to do if the House rules allow it. But how far would this be allowed to go? What if the House changed its rules to say any bill which the Senate passes in a given session will be “deemed” to have pass? It would seem to me there also might be questions that could be raised under the Non-Delegation Doctrine as well.
The latter case, where the House moves a reconciliation bill forward, under a rule that deems the Senate version to have passed the House, but with the Senate version later being actually voted on by the House and both bills being presented to the President simultaneously is a bit more constitutionallyÂ ambiguous. There’s a better case that this is constitutional., since the House and Senate will have, effectively, passed two bills, and presented both to the President. The “deeming” of the Senate bill being passed, in this instance, would merely be a procedural maneuver that would allow the Senate to use the reconciliation rules to get the fixes some House members are demanding before they’ll flip their vote. It’s my opinion that if this is the plan, it’s likely constitutional. The question is whether it violates the reconciliation rules. Reconciliation rules require that you change a budgetary matter that is actually existing law. It would seem to me that this Slaughter rule wouldn’t really get around that. They’d essentially be changing budgetary issues that don’t effectively exist. The House passing a rule that “deems” a bill to be passed does not actually make it so.
Either way you go, this tactic is a disgusting abuse of procedure and an affront to the democratic process. It’s hard for me to understand how it’s legal under either path. I definitely don’t see how the House gets around having to vote for the Senate bill. It would seem to me you can’t pass two bills with one vote because of the Article 1 Section 5 requirements in the constitution. If anyone out there has any specific expertise on this topic (and after reading the actual rules, if you do, I have a huge amount of respect for you, these rules areÂ complicated) feel free to chime in with comments.