(CNSNews.com) – Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said he has “not decided” yet whether it is unconstitutional for the Democrats in the House of Representatives to pass a special rule to deem the Senate health care bill as passed, allowing them to not actually vote on the legislation in an up or down roll call vote.
“That’s a good question, and I don’t have a final answer on that,” Diaz-Balart told CNSNews.com on Wednesday.
At the U.S. Capitol, CNSNews.com asked the Florida congressman whether he thought passing the Senate health care bill through a special rule, without a yay or nay vote on the actual legislation, was constitutional.
Rep. Diaz-Balart said: “I am not decided on the constitutionality. No. No I am not decided. No, no, that has to be studied. I don’t have an opinion on the constitutionality.”
When asked about Article 1, Section VII of the Constitution that says for a bill to become a law both chambers of Congress must vote on it, Diaz-Balart said: “I know well what they’re saying. Again, I don’t have a final opinion on this. They’re saying that it will be voted on both. That by virtue the fact that it’s voted on the floor, it’s voted on both, the Senate [health care] bill.”
Diaz-Balart continued: “Remember what they’re thinking, by the way, it’s all, this is all speculation because we don’t know what they’re going to do. But if what they do is include the Senate bill, in the rule, and then they say the amendments, the deals that they’re cutting with House members are also included in the rule, and they say this rule deems by being passed, deems pass the Senate bill, passed the Senate bill. You know, their argument is that since the Senate bill is already passed in the Senate and then it’s been passed in the House, it’s been passed in both chambers, you see?”
“But that -- but what’s complicated there is that since they’re including in that rule a bunch of other things, does that violate, you know, the essential constitutional requirements?” said Diaz-Balart. “And that’s a good question, and I don’t have a final answer on that.
While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have said they are waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to score the cost of a budget reconciliation bill before they decide on how to proceed with trying to pass health care reform, neither leader has said they would not use the special rule to deem the Senate health bill as passed.
Both Pelosi and Hoyer have, in fact, indicated they may very well use what is called the Slaughter Rule – named for House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) – to pass health care without actually voting on the legislation.
“It’s more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know, but I like it because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill,” Pelosi said of the special rule on Monday, as reported in The Washington Post.
Hoyer told CNSNews.com on Tuesday, “We’re going to vote on a bill -- on a rule -- which would provide for the result that, if a majority are for it, that will adopt a bill, the Senate [health care] bill, which has had extensive debate, extensive exposure.”
Under the Slaughter plan, the House would pass a special rule governing debate on a budget reconciliation bill being crafted to make "fixes" in the Senate health care bill desired by House Democrats. With this rule, the Senate health care bill itself would be "deemed" to have passed the House if the full House of Representatives subsequently passes the budget reconciliation bill.
Simply, a majority of the House would have to vote in favor of the Slaughter Rule and then in favor of the reconciliation bill for the Senate health care bill to be considered passed. But House members would never actually vote on the 2,074-page Senate health care bill itself or have their votes on that bill recorded in the official record of the chamber as required by the Constitution.
Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution states:
"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.”