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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.

This means the House will hold three major votes on Sunday. The first will be on a resolution containing the “rule” governing the debate that the Rules Committee is still hashing out. The second will be on the budget reconciliation bill that contains about 150 pages of changes to the Senate health care bill. The third vote will be on passing the Senate health care bill, which, technically, will be a “motion to agree to the Senate amendments” the the bill.

At that point, both chambers will have passed the Senate health care bill in identical versions and it can enter the enrollment process that prepares it for being signed into law by President Obama, The budget reconciliation bill will still have to be approved by the Senate. It’s unclear at this point whether Obama will sign the health care bill into law before the Senate passes the budget reconciliation bill, or if he’ll wait until both bills have cleared Congress and sign them together.

As you might expect, there’s a bit more to the process than what I have explained here. There are “motions to recommit,” “manager’s amendments,” “previous question” motions and more that will also have to be dealt with by the House tomorrow. Most of that should be overcome on party line votes, but there could be some pitfalls, for example if the Republicans team up with Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] and the other pro-life Dems to force a vote on banning anybody buying insurance with government help from getting abort coverage, even if the abortion coverage portion is paid for entirely with private premiums.

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