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The Speaker, the Slaughter Solution and the Spin

We have a Bill…

Health care reform efforts are in full swing this week for the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. Taking her cue from the President, Speaker Pelosi is attempting to paint health care reform as a done deal, in hopes of securing the votes of Members who are inclined to vote “No.”

The President’s “new” health care reform proposal, which has now been merged with his student loan initiative, is currently expected to take the form of a “reconciliation bill,” or a collection of amendments to the bill that the Senate passed on December 24, 2009. AUL is opposed to the Senate bill’s abortion provisions, which do not adequately prevent taxpayer funding for abortion or subsidization of insurance plans that cover abortions.

In order to send health care reform to President Obama’s desk for his signature, the House must pass both the Senate-passed bill and the reconciliation bill, and upon passage, send the reconciliation bill to the Senate where Senator Reid would only need to secure 51 votes under the special reconciliation process.

Here’s where all the fun begins. According to Speaker Pelosi, “The bill is locked down . . . We’re just waiting for the Congressional Budget Office [to score the bill].”

But, a quote from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), author of the Stupak amendment, the amendment to the now-abandoned House bill which would have prohibited the use federal funds for abortion services, suggests otherwise. Rep. Stupak claims that “there is a lot of arm-twisting” to attract votes, adding that leadership officials are asking members what they want in the yet-to-be-released reconciliation package to secure their votes.

Lending credibility to Stupak’s account of the action (in addition to the Speaker’s lack of credibility) is that House members have been informed that the current version of the reconciliation bill, the version reported out of the House Budget Committee on March 15, 2010, is far from the final version of the bill. Members can expect to see the “real” version of the reconciliation bill only as the Rules Committee begins consideration of the bill in the upcoming days. It’s anyone’s guess what ends up in the House reconciliation bill.

We have the Votes….

Speaker Pelosi has also stated:  “I have no intention of not passing this bill.”

We learned in English class that double negative makes a positive, but it seems here that the opposite may ultimately be true. While Speaker Pelosi “intends” to pass a healthcare bill, her Democratic whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said, “We don’t have (the votes) as of this morning.”

In addition, according to Rep. Jason Altmire, Democratic leadership is “calling the hardnosed people…who have put out firm statements saying no . . . and . . . they wouldn’t be doing that if they were anywhere close” [to having enough votes to pass the bill].

The Slaughter “Solution”

Finally, and most telling, Speaker Pelosi has stated “Nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill.”  As a result of this not so surprising fact, Pelosi and Chairwoman of the Rules Committee, Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are considering a new procedural option for passing the Senate bill. The procedure, which has been termed the “Slaughter Solution,” would involve incorporating the Senate bill into the Rule for the reconciliation bill, thereby “deeming” the Senate bill passed when Members vote on the underlying Rule for the reconciliation bill. The practical effect of this solution is the Members will not actually vote on the Senate bill. They will only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. Regardless of the form of the vote, AUL will score against any vote that members take on passage of the Senate bill and its harmful abortion provisions.