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If you asked the House of Representatives right now to approve $37 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan indefinitely without a plan in place for winding it down, the answer would be "no." But through some carefully considered procedural maneuvering last night , Democratic leaders in the House managed to pass their war spending bill, reject attempts at setting a withdrawal timeline, enact a broad budget enforcement resolution that will guide all discretionary spending for 2011, and even throw in billions of dollars (fully offset) in unrelated domestic spending. 

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"Deem and Pass" Deemed Dead

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Rules Committee meeting is still going on. But the biggest decision of the day has already been made. The Democrats have decided not to use the "self-executing rule," otherwise known as "deem and pass," and will instead hold a separate vote on passing the Senate health care bill.

This is a strong sign that Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] has more than enough votes for passing the health care bill on Sunday.

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Setting the Rules

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The House Committee on Rules meets at 10 a.m. ET today to craft the "rule" that will govern the big health care vote that is scheduled for Sunday in the House. The biggest question they'll have to tackle will be whether to use a "self-executing rule," which would allow the Democrats to deem the health care bill to be passed in the House without requiring them to take a stand-alone vote on it.

Here's your update on what to watch on Saurday as health care reform moves closer to the finish line.

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Health Care Bill Summary: Follow the Endgame

March 18, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The 72 hour clock has begun to tick, all the materials for the final health care bill are online, a House vote is tentatively set for Sunday, President Obama has again postponed his Asia trip, and the votes are steadily flipping in the direction of getting this bill done and signed into law. Click through for a summary & links with everything you need to keep up as health care reform approaches the finish line.

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As I reported earlier, the "deem and pass" strategy that House Democrats are considering using for passing the Senate health care bill, allowing them to pass it without actually taking a separate vote on it, isn't unprecedented. It has been used at least 6 times for in the past 20 years for enacting what the Congressinoal Research Service calls "significant substantive and sometimes controversial propositions," mostly by Republicans.

But it has never been used in the way the Democrats are considering using it -- to pass a bill through the House that doesn't have the votes to pass on its own. As the research below shows, 4 of the 6 uses of the "deem and pass" process, also known as the "self-executing rule," were approved unanimously by voice vote. The other two passed with votes to spare. These are on the 6 supposedly controversial uses of the rule that CRS gives. It appears that the process has mainly been used to speed up adoption of Senate amendments that would have been easily approved under normal procedure.

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Ironically, the legislative maneuver chosen to protect on-the-fence House Democrats from the political fallout of voting for the Senate health care bill (H.R.3590) could actually derail it. Conservative outrage over a plan to have the House pass the bill with a self-executing rule now has lawmakers arguing over process rather than policy.

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Since the politics of the self-executing rule (a.k.a. the "deem and pass" strategy, or the "Slaughter solution") are blowing up right now -- discussion of the rule currently dominates the top half of Memerorandum -- I thought I should bring back this historcial information from a post I wrote when the idea of using the rule for health care was first reported.

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House Democrats are are considering three paths that would lead to a vote on health care by the end of the week. Two of the options would result in the Senate bill (H.R.3590) becoming the law of the land pending a successful vote, while the third option would kick responsibility for making the bill law over to the Senate.

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Let the endgames begin! The pieces of the process puzzle for finishing health care reform are falling into place. The votes are being whipped. And, after 14 months of national obsession with health care reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' statement on Sunday that in one week the health care bill will be "the law of the land," actually seems plausible.

Here's the latest on what to expect this week -- both politically and procedurally -- and when to expect it.

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As House Democrats struggle to round up the votes to pass the Senate health care bill, they're considering using more and more obscure parliamentary rules to help them. Politico reports: "Party 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."

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