Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dream A Little Deem…

All the predicted GOP outrage at the prospect of Speaker Pelosi using the “deem and pass” rule to get the healthcare bill passed reminded Norm Ornstein that the GOP has used it plenty of times before.

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.” 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). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules by either party—I prefer the “regular order”—so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so—is there no shame anymore?

I trust the last question is rhetorical.

I would much rather the bill would pass on and up-or-down vote (something Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) seems in favor of, too, which spikes the irony meter) simply because doing it on a procedural move like “deem and pass” smacks of parliamentary legerdemain and the right wing will go even more bananas than they already are. Not that I have any objection to watching them go off like a Roman candle — it’s cheaper and more fun than renting a movie — and it’s not like there was ever any hope that no matter what happened with healthcare proposed by President Obama that the GOP would ever be on board with it. I just wish the Democrats weren’t the ones that were making this the dramatic rush to the finish line.

Steve M makes a good point:

I’d add that violent wingnuts are also going to develop an unhealthy fixation on this vote — the next right-wing crazy who attempts or commits political terrorism will have mentioned this vote specifically in his Web rantings. No, you can’t let violent paranoids dictate your actions as a legislator. But nonviolent paranoids are another story. The right has created a lot of them, and they’re going to march, and call for impeachment, and offer support to demagoguing state legislators and attorneys general who want to sue over this law, and vote in big numbers in November.

I hope the benefits of the procedure outweigh all that.

Those of us of a certain age remember that the right-wing backlash against such legislation as the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts in the 1960’s was just as adamant, and it took the National Guard in 1957 to ensure that kids could go to school in Little Rock, Arkansas. All of the legal challenges for states rights failed, and while the aftershocks and rebellion are still being felt, the benefits most assuredly did outweigh the outrage.