We have been following Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to use the controversial “deem and pass” tactic to pass the health care bill to help members avoid accountability for voting for the unpopular Senate bill. Now, after a week of widespread condemnations, Pelosi has backed down and said that there will be a straight vote.
In my view the use of a self-executing rule was constitutional but unprincipled (here). I was shocked that Pelosi would not only invoke such a procedure (which was denounced by Democrats when the GOP used it), but to be so open in her effort to help members avoid accountability for their votes.
What I find astonishing is how poorly the Democrats have handled this matter. As I stated on Countdown this week, I thought that the Democrats had miscalculated in the use of the deem and pass tactic because, in my view, the GOP could easily derail the tactic in the Senate through challenges. It also created a universal view that the Democrats were playing fast and loose with the rules because they lacked the needed votes.
The end result is that Pelosi succeeded in added a layer of controversy to the legislation and handing the GOP a victory. There is no evidence of a strategy in this effort as opposed to small insular tactical moves by the House leadership. That has made it easy for the GOP.
I cannot imagine how you could foul up this process more than what has been done by House and Senate leaders. This all began with a Democratic Senate bill loaded with obscene give-aways and special deals — inviting attacks from critics. The deal for Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was not just wrong, it was moronic. The Democrats loaded up the bill to buy votes instead to fighting on principle. Ultimately, Nelson agreed to vote for the bill without the pay off. The reconciliation bill was needed to try to strip away those provisions. Because of that bad play, the Democrats lost their window of opportunity — and their filibuster proof majority.
They may still be able to pull this out today, but make no mistake about it: these delays have been due less to cunning GOP moves than remarkably poor management by the Democratic leadership, including the White House.
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