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"Deem and Pass" Not Typically Used for Controversial Legislation

March 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

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.


Resolution containing self-executing rule Legislation that was deemed passed under the rule Vote to pass the rule
101-H.Res. 221 — Waiving certain points of order against consideration of the bill (H.R. 3015) making appropriations for the Department of Transportation and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1990, and for other purposes. Made in order for consideration a provision that prohibited smoking on domestic airline flights. Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 259 – 169 (Roll no. 204)
104-H.Res. 384 — Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2202) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to improve deterrence of illegal immigration to the United States by increasing border patrol and investigative personnel, by increasing penalties for alien smuggling and for document fraud, by reforming exclusion and deportation law and procedures, by improving the verification system for eligibility for employment, and through other measures, to reform the legal immigration system and facilitate legal entries into the United States, and for other purposes. incorporated a voluntary employee verification program, addressing the employment of illegal immigrants. Agreed to unanimously by voice vote.
105-H.Res. 239 — Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2267) making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1998, and for other purposes. Incorporated a provision to block the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 census until federal courts had an opportunity to rule on its constitutionality. Agreed to unanimously by voice vote.
105-H.Res. 303 — Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2676) to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to restructure and reform the Internal Revenue Service, and for other purposes. Provided for automatic adoption of four amendments to the committee substitute made in order as original text. Agreed to unanimously by voice vote.
105-H.Res. 420 — Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3694) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 1999 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes. Dropped a section from the intelligence measure that would have permitted the CIA to offer their employees an early-out retirement program. Agreed to unanimously by voice vote.
109-H.Res. 75 — Providing for further consideration of the bill (H.R. 418) to establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver’s license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence. Changes related to asylum law. Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 228 – 198 (Roll no. 27)
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  • KagroX 03/17/2010 4:18am

    The Republican controlled House in 2003 used a self-executing rule to pass an $82 billion tax package, H.R. 1380, in the 108th Congress. The rule passed by the relatively narrow margin of 224-201, with 9 Republicans voting no, 9 Democrats voting yes, and 10 Members not voting. That was pretty close, and on a fairly major piece of legislation that by some estimates would cost $1 trillion over 20 years.

  • jamesselton2 03/18/2010 12:40am


  • Watson 03/18/2010 6:34am

    The reference to 2003 H.R. 1380 is a specious one. That particular bill was for a suspension of the federal excise tax on aircraft fuel for a two-year period only for the war in Iraq. In other words, the federal government (Congress) elected to suspend the IRS rules in order not to tax their own Dept. of Defense. I refer you to the Libr. of Congress information on the no less than 35 CO-SPONSORS of that bill, of which the composition was approximately 50/50 Republican and Democrats. In other words, “bi-partisan”. No dice here on pulling that reference.

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