Rep. Sessions: ‘Slaughter Rule’ to Pass Health Care With No Up-Down Vote on Bill is Unconstitutional

March 17, 2010 - 7:35 PM
If House Democrats pass a special rule that 'deems' the Senate health care bill to have passed, allowing them to bypass an up-or-down roll call vote, it would be a violation of Article 1, Section VII of the U.S. Constitution, said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.)

(CNSNews.com) – If House Democrats pass a special rule that "deems" the Senate health care bill to have passed, allowing them to bypass an up-or-down roll call vote, it would be a violation of Article 1, Section VII of the U.S. Constitution, said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
 
At the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, CNSNews.com asked Rep. Sessions, “You keep mentioning that it’s unconstitutional for health care reform to be passed without holding a yay or nay vote in the House. Can you tell me why it’s unconstitutional, why do you think so?
 
Rep. Sessions said: “What I believe is unconstitutional is that we would deem a piece of legislation as passed by the body when, in fact, it was never presented to a committee or on the floor for passage. You have to present the legislation entirely as it is.”
 
“You just can’t take a, a piece of legislation that we’ve never even seen, that’s never been presented to the body and say, yeah we’ll ‘deem’ that’s being done,” said Sessions. “That is not correct you can imagine the frailties of any bill that we have not seen, that we have not debated, that we have not argued, and that had not gone through the proper process.”
 
 

 
 
CNSNews.com also asked Rep. Sessions, “What are you and your Republican colleagues planning to do to stop this from happening, to stop the leaders, the Democratic leadership from passing the bill without – ?
 
Sessions said:  “Well, one thing is we’re talking to the American people about it. We believe this is not a banana republic. We believe it would be done in some foreign country, not the United States, and we think it is unwise and we’re asking that they don’t do it.”
 
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.”