House Republicans to Force Vote on Slaughter Rule for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Republicans to Force Vote on Slaughter Rule for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 16
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — House Republicans have unveiled a new move to force Democratic leaders to vote directly on the Senate pro-abortion health care bill. Democrats have been looking at using the controversial Slaughter Rule that would allow the House to adopt a procedural rule declaring the bill passed without voting on it.

Named for the chair of the House Rules Committee, the Slaughter Rule would allow the House to "deem" the Senate bill approved without an up or down vote.

Republicans want to force a vote later this week on a motion that would say Democrats can’t use the rule to bypass a direct vote.

While they would likely have not have the votes to force the issue, some Democrats may not want to go on record as supporting a controversial plan to pass the Senate bill without actually voting on it.

The idea would also give Republicans a bit of a public relations advantage as Democrats would have to explain to Americans why they would prefer passing the bill without allowing a vote on it directly.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Tuesday that she has not yet made a decision on whether to use the Slaughter Rule.

“We have several options available to us,” Pelosi said, according to Roll Call, and admitted many Democrats don’t like the Senate bill. “There are a lot of members who don’t want to vote for it."

The process has become so controversial that even the Washington Post issued an editorial Tuesday saying the Slaughter Rule "strikes us as a dodgy way to reform the health care system."

"The health-care debate has been going on longer than a year, and House members want to get it over with," the Post’s editorial board wrote. "These are understandable desires, but they don’t outweigh the need for a reasonable process on a matter of such importance."

Meanwhile, though Congressional Republicans and pro-life advocates would rather defeat the pro-abortion health care bill but, if Democrats use the controversial Slaughter Rule to get the House to approve the Senate bill without actually voting on it they may be successful in overturning the legislation in court.

Amy Ridenour at the National Center Blog points out that a key Supreme Court decision on the line-item veto from 1998 has implications for the Slaughter Rule.

The high court, in Clinton vs. City of New York, ruled the specialized veto unconstitutional but it also spelled out how bills become law.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted, "a bill containing its exact text was approved by a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives, the Senate approved precisely the same text; and that text was signed into law by the President. The Constitution explicitly requires that each of those three steps be taken before a bill may ‘become a law.’ Art. I, Section 7."

"If one paragraph of that text had been omitted at any one of those three stages, Public Law 105–33 would not have been validly enacted," the high court said, according to Ridenour.

Mark Tapscott, a writer at the Washington Examiner, says he thinks the decision would apply to the Slaughter Rule, whereby House Democrats may approve a procedural motion that "deems" the Senate bill and its abortion funding approved without actually voting on the legislation.

"Democrats in Congress might want to re-read the 1998 Supreme Court decision," he writes. "That reasoning would seem applicable to legislation approved under the Slaughter Solution, since the House would be voting on a proposed rule for considering a bill and not the bill itself."

Meanwhile, constitutional law scholar Michael McConnell writes at the Wall St. Journal that the Slaughter Rule may open the pro-abortion health care bill to a legal challenge.

"These constitutional rules set forth in Article I are not mere exercises in formalism. They ensure the democratic accountability of our representatives. Under Section 7, no bill can become law unless it is put up for public vote by both houses of Congress, and under Section 5 ‘the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question . . . shall be entered on the Journal,”" he explains.

"Democratic leaders have not announced whether they will pursue the Slaughter solution. But the very purpose of it is to enable members of the House to vote for something without appearing to do so. The Constitution was drafted to prevent that," McConnell said.

Some political observers speculate the Slaughter Rule would be constitutional if accompanied by a reconciliation bill that says the House agrees to pass the same text of the Senate measure.

Rep. Mike Pence, a top pro-life Republican, talked about the situation today on the Washington Times’ "America’s Morning News" radio show.

"Republicans are going to use every means at our disposal to make sure the Constitution of the United States of America is specifically enforced on the floor," he said.

Pence would not say if he thought the process was unconstitutional because he is hoping to get enough votes to kill the Senate bill in the first place.

"I’ve been ducking that question for five days, and I will duck it once more because I don’t think this bill will pass," he said.

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