Michele Bachmann decries "Slaughter Solution" that Republicans used over and over
When Michele Bachmann criticizes what she calls the "Slaughter Solution," she's talking about "deem and pass," or a "self-executing" legislative rule that Democrats may use this weekend in order to get health care reform passed in the House of Representatives. It's named for Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
"This is unusual, even for Congress, to pass a bill without voting on it. It's never been done before in the history of Congress," she insisted on Fox News the other day. "It does great violence to the Constitution."
Does it? The rule has been in place since the 1930s, and it's been used by both Republicans and Democrats to move legislation through Congress.
Political writers have been trying to explain the rule a lot this week. Here's how it works, courtesy of Politifact:
The rule dictates what amendments can be offered to a given bill and how long the bill will be debated, for example. A self-executing rule is essentially a two-for-one special; when the House votes to adopt a self-executing rule, it simultaneously adopts a separate bill or amendment, which is specified in the rule itself. In short, the House "deems" another bill to be passed as soon as it adopts the rule.
Is it an evil Democratic trick?
"In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of 'deem and pass,' writes conservative author Norm Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute. "That strategy then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld)."
Could the law be challenged successfully in the courts? ProPublica, a non-profit independent news site, asked a variety of experts, who agreed such a challenge would be problematic at best.
And at the conservative Power Line blog, Paul Mirengoff pointed approvingly at a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by former appeals court judge Michael McConnell supporting a challenge, but seemed to suggest that such an effort would be a delaying tactic with a questionable outcome:
The problem is getting a court to entertain the argument, if we get to that point. As Andy McCarthy reminds us, when Democrats, including Louise Slaughter herself, challenged the use of a similar device to raise the debt ceiling, the D.C. Circuit decided that it could not reach the question due to the standards of deference that apply between departments of government. The same might happen here.
Nonetheless, a legal challenge, including a petition to the Supreme Court if necessary, represents another obstacle to Obamacare in the event that the House employs the Slaughter solution.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.