Republicans Will Get Only 30 Minutes on House Floor to Debate Slaughter Rule

March 17, 2010 - 5:21 PM
Republicans will get only 30 minutes on the House floor to debate a special "rule" that would deem the Senate health care bill passed in the House of Representatives without actually holding a vote on the bill as required by Article I, Section VII of the Constitution.
Nancy Pelosi health care

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) – Under the standard procedures of the House of Representatives, Republicans will get only 30 minutes on the House floor to debate the special "rule" being prepared by House Rules Chairman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) that would deem the Senate health care bill passed in the House without an actual vote on the bill as required by Article I, Section VII of the Constitution.
 
Under Slaughter's 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. Under 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.
 
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. 

The Slaughter Rule is expected to be brought up on the House floor later this week. In order for the House to take up the reconciliation bill, it must first debate and approve the Slaugher Rule. During that debate, under the normal procedures of the House, Republican members will be allowed only 30 minutes to publicly air their views on the rule and to try to persuade their Democratic colleagues not to circumvent the constitutional requirements for passing a bill into law.
 
“It [the rule] would go to the floor and it would be debated for an hour--30 minutes each side,” Jo Maney, spokeswoman for ranking Rules Committee Republican David Dreier (Calif.), told CNSNews.com, then “there’d be a vote on the rule.”
 
After that vote, Maney explained, the House would debate and vote on the budget reconciliation package itself. The terms of that debate would be entirely defined by Slaughter’s special rule.
 
The rule cannot be amended by either the Demcorat or Republican members, unless it fails in a vote to close debate, called a “vote on the previous question.”  If that vote to close debate fails, then a member of the opposition Republicans, usually the ranking minority member of the House Rules Committee, can offer amendments.
 
 “At the conclusion of debate on the rule, the floor manager moves the previous question,” according to the House Rules Committee Web site. “If no objection is heard, the House proceeds to vote on the rule. If objection is heard, a vote occurs on the previous question. If the previous question is rejected, however, a Member who opposed the previous question (usually the Rules Committee minority floor manager) is recognized. That Member then controls one hour of debate time on the amendment. The Member controlling the time may offer an amendment to the rule and then move the previous question on the amendment and on the rule when debate has concluded.”
 
If, as is expected, the full House approves the special rule, the representatives will immediately move to debate and vote on the budget reconciliation package. During that debate, the minority (Republicans) may offer a motion to recommit, which would either send the reconciliation package back to the Budget Committee or stop it outright.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Rules, which threw out more than 200 amendments proposed for HR 3962, including 11 that required Congress and other government officials to sign on to the same government-run health plan they want for the American people. (AP Photo)

If a motion to recommit fails, then the full House would vote on the budget reconciliation bill. If it passes that bill, the Senate health care bill would be deemed passed--due to the previously adopted Slaughter Rule--and would be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. The budget reconciliation bill would go to the Senate.
 
Republican Rules Committee Spokeswoman Maney told CNSNews.com that the Republicans now expect Democrats to try to adopt the Slaughter Solution and use it to avoid an actual up-or-down, yeas and nays, vote on the Senate health care bill.
 
She said: “The rule would state that, when the package of reconciliation bills passes the House, then the Senate bill would be considered adopted. It basically would say ‘hereby considered adopted.’”
 
“At that point, it would go straight to the President for his signature,” said Maney. “Just the Senate bill. The only guaranteed outcome of approving a rule like that and then approving the [reconciliation] package of fixes is that the Senate bill becomes law.”

Maney's boss, ranking Rules Committee Republican David Dreier, told CNSNews.com that he thought the Slaughter Rule was "outrageous" and that he would do everything he could to expost it and stop it.

“(I am) trying to do everything that I possibly can to expose the outrageous procedure that they are trying to use to take over control of one-sixth of our economy,” said Dreir. 

Constitutional scholars have alsos questioned the rule, citing the Article I, Section VII of the Constitution, which requires a recorded yes-or-no vote of all members of both houses of Congress before a bill can become law. 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.”