Policy-ish

Health Overhaul Takes A New Path Through House

Democrats' maneuvers to pass health overhaul are getting curiouser and curiouser.

Nancy Pelosi on March 15, 2010. i i

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a plan for making it easier for Democrats to vote for health overhaul. TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi on March 15, 2010.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a plan for making it easier for Democrats to vote for health overhaul.

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

If you thought budget reconciliation was a strange way to make a law that would recast the nation's health system, then wrap your mind around "deeming."

It now looks as though the House Democrats may tackle overhaul by formally voting on fixes to the Senate bill, and by passing them deem the underlying Senate bill also approved. The approach, also called a "self-executing rule," is used fairly frequently on Capitol Hill, but not on anything as big as health overhaul.

"It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday in a meeting with bloggers. "But I like it because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."

Why would she like that? Well, as NPR's Andrea Seabrook explained on Tuesday's Morning Edition, the House just hates the Senate bill. Some members don't like the way it handles abortion, others bristle at its effect on immigrants and the stalwart liberals are still upset that it doesn't offer a government-run public option.

The bill also would give some cover to vulnerable freshman representatives come Election Day.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page slammed the self-executing rule as an "amazing procedural ruse." And the paper crystallized the view of Republican opposition like so: "This two-votes-in-one gambit is a brazen affront to the plain language of the Constitution, which is intended to require democratic accountability."

If you can't get enough on the self-executing rule, check out this rundown prepared by the Congressional Research Service in 2006. We found out, for instance, that a self-executing rule made it illegal to smoke on airplane flights less than two hours long way back in 1989.

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