The Republicans are worried that the healthcare bill might pass using the “self-executing rule.”
A March 9 Politico article reported that Democratic House “leaders have discussed the possibility of using the House Rules Committee to avoid an actual vote on the Senate’s bill, according to leadership aides. They would do this by writing what’s called a ‘self-executing rule,’ meaning the Senate bill would be attached to a package of fixes being negotiated between the two chambers — without an actual vote on the Senate’s legislation.”
Would this be the first time such a rule was used? No, it’s been used plenty of times, and by Republicans according to this article from 2006 in Roll Call by Don Wolfensberger.
When Republicans were in the minority, they railed against self-executing rules as being anti-deliberative because they undermined and perverted the work of committees and also prevented the House from having a separate debate and vote on the majority’s preferred changes. From the 95th to 98th Congresses (1977-84), there were only eight self-executing rules making up just 1 percent of the 857 total rules granted. However, in Speaker Tip O’Neill’s (D-Mass.) final term in the 99th Congress, there were 20 self-executing rules (12 percent). In Rep. Jim Wright’s (D-Texas) only full term as Speaker, in the 100th Congress, there were 18 self-executing rules (17 percent). They reached a high point of 30 under Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.) during the final Democratic Congress, the 103rd, for 22 percent of all rules.
When Republicans took power in 1995, they soon lost their aversion to self-executing rules and proceeded to set new records under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). There were 38 and 52 self-executing rules in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995-1998), making up 25 percent and 35 percent of all rules, respectively. Under Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) there were 40, 42 and 30 self-executing rules in the 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses (22 percent, 37 percent and 22 percent, respectively). Thus far in the 109th Congress, self-executing rules make up about 16 percent of all rules.
There are a couple of things we might get out of this process. First is a healthcare bill, which would be the whole point. Second, we get a lesson in the inner workings of the House and Senate to the degree that we’re all parliamentarians and therefore equipped to win bar bets on how bills get passed without being voted on.