Taking ‘deem and pass’ off the table

TAKING ‘DEEM AND PASS’ OFF THE TABLE…. The life of the “self-executing rule” on health care reform was fairly brief, but it experienced quite a ride. What started as an obscure and unlikely approach quickly became a favorite of the leadership. From there is became reviled by right-wing activists and the media, and the subject of considerable legal debate.

As it turns out, it looks like the hullabaloo was for naught — “deem and pass” has apparently been taken off the table.

House leaders have decided to take a separate vote on the Senate health-care bill, rejecting an earlier, much-criticized strategy that would have permitted them to “deem” the unpopular measure passed without an explicit vote.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Saturday that the House would take three votes Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.

Van Hollen, who has been working on the issue with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House leaders concluded that that order — approving the amendments before approving the Senate bill — makes clear that the House intends to modify the Senate bill and not approve the Senate bill itself.

“Our objective all along was to make it clear that the House is amending the Senate bill, and we found another way of accomplishing that,” Van Hollen said in an interview.

Days’ worth of hysterical cries about a routine procedure were apparently entirely unnecessary. Oh well.

As a practical matter, if the leadership moves forward with its floor plans tomorrow, there will be three votes — (1) an up-or-down vote on the rule, which is a standard move for all legislation; (2) an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill, just as Republicans demanded; and (3) an up-or-down vote on the reconciliation budget fix.

I can only assume, then, that Republicans and the media will praise the Democratic leadership for their commitment to a transparent, above-board process, and every conservative who whined incessantly about “demon pass” — Peggy Noonan, I’m looking in your direction — will credit Speaker Pelosi for doing the right thing.

Yes, I’m sure that praise will happen any minute now.