Slaughtering the US Constitution

Will the Supreme Court Decide on Health Care?

The more I listen to the debate on health care reform in Congress the more concerned I get that in their desperation to get this health care bill passed, the Congress is considering actions that undermine the very fabric of the republic.  It feels a little like the last days of Rome in DC.

I’m not talking about the substance of the health care bill, I’m not even sure anyone knows what’s in this bill or even if all the deals that are being made to get the votes to pass it are yet written down.  This is not about the merits but the perversion of the legislative process being considered to get the bill passed before the Members go home for Easter Break, get blasted by their constituents for all these stupid stunts, and come back to Washington and chicken out.

That is what this is all about.  The end justifies the means. Don’t tell them what’s really in the bill until after we pass it.  Once it’s passed they will learn to accept it.

The Slaughter Solution

The word on the street in the political blogs and news sites is that a vote on the health care bill will be attempted next week and the House leadership is seriously considering something called the “Slaughter Solution” to get the job done.[1] The Slaughter Solution is named after the Chair of the House Rules Committee which is charged with defining the procedural rules under which bills are considered on the House floor.

Under the Slaughter Solution rule the House members could have their cake and eat it too.  That is they could avoid a direct vote on whether or not to adopt the Senate health care bill which is the condition precedent to making the use of a reconciliation bill possible.  Slaughter’s rule would declare that the House “deems” the Senate health care bill passed by the House. House members would vote on whether to accept the rule, but they could thus avoid a recorded vote for the bill itself.

There is only one problem with this solution—it may not be legal—or worse, it may not be Constitutional.  If this process results in a bill that is not legal it will surely be challenged in court thus defeating the whole point of the bill.  If the Congress adopts it by undermining the Constitutional requirements for legislation and due process they will be toast.

The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section VII, Clause II

When you read the plain language of the Constitution do you find any “wiggle room” for the Slaughter solution in this process?  I certainly do not.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.

So what?

We may actually be approaching the Rubicon on this one.  Will the process used by a majority in the Congress fearful it lacks the votes to do the job right and realizing it has only one chance to get it done go to extraordinary and extra-Constitutional procedural steps to achieve the end by any means—and thus ruin not only their signature legislative goal, many of their own political careers, and put the very Constitutional legitimacy of our legislative process at risk?

Amazing!

If you thought Bush-v-Gore was divisive wait until this one plays out.


[1] http://gopleader.gov/UploadedFiles/CD_03-10-10_Slaughter_Preps_Rule_To_Avoid_Direct_Vote_On_Senate_Bill.pdf