WASHINGTON — House of Representatives Rules Committee staff continued to lay some groundwork Tuesday for passing Senate health care legislation without actually passing the Senate legislation.
Under a procedure being considered by House Democratic leaders, the controversial Senate health care bill would be "deemed" as passed if the House approves rules of debate for a second, more palatable health care bill.
Republicans are howling, and constitutional scholars are raising questions.
But, said Democratic Rules spokesman Vincent Morris, Republicans have used the same device many times.
In fact, he urged, look back as far as 1933:
"The precedent of having one vote to adopt a resolution and at the same time concur in Senate amendments to a bill was set back in 1933; however that is not the only example of its use," Morris wrote. Some examples, from Deschler's Precedents:
MARCH 16, 1933
(H. Res. 63) H.R. 2820 – To maintain the credit of the U.S. Government.
Text of H. Res. 63:
Resolved, That immediately upon the adoption of this resolution the bill H.R. 2820, with Senate amendments thereto, be, and the same hereby is, taken from the Speaker’s table to the end that all Senate amendments be, and the same are hereby, agreed to.
MR. [BERTRAND H.] SNELL [R-NY]: Mr. Speaker, a parliamentary inquiry.
THE SPEAKER [Henry Rainey, D-IL]: The gentleman will state it.
MR. SNELL: Mr. Speaker, it would seem to me that if we adopt this resolution that ends the bill and there is no further vote on the bill itself.
THE SPEAKER: That is correct.
MR. SNELL: I understood the gentleman from Alabama to say that we would then vote for or against the bill.
MR. [JOHN] MCDUFFIE [D-AL]: No; the gentleman from Alabama was mistaken.
MR. SNELL: If we adopt this resolution, we pass the bill.
MR. MCDUFFIE: We have then concurred in the Senate amendment, and, therefore, the bill is passed, so far as the House is concerned.
MR. SNELL: And there is no other vote on the bill.
MR. MCDUFFIE: No other vote on the bill, as I understand it.
THE SPEAKER: That is correct.
MARCH 24, 1946
(H. Res. 510) H.R. 4790 – To reduce individual income tax payments, and for other purposes.
Text of H. Res. 510:
Resolved, That immediately upon the adoption of this resolution the bill (H.R. 4790) to reduce individual income tax payments, and for other purposes, with Senate amendments thereto, be, and the same is hereby, taken from the Speaker's table to the end that all Senate amendments be, and the same are hereby, agreed to.
Mr. [Sam] Rayburn [D-TX]: Mr. Speaker, a parliamentary inquiry.
The Speaker [Joseph W. Martin Jr. R-MA]: The gentleman will state it.
Mr. Rayburn: As I understand the parliamentary situation, Mr. Speaker, there is to be one vote only; and if the resolution is agreed to, it means that the House concurs in the Senate amendments to the so-called Knutson bill.
The Speaker: The gentleman has stated the situation correctly.
The two best recent examples of how this procedure has been used for major legislation are:
In 1996, H. Res. 391 (a rule for the “Senior Citizens’ Right to Work Act”), included a provision to consider the conference report to accompany S. 4 (the “Line Item Veto Act”) as adopted upon receiving a message informing it that the Senate has adopted the conference report. (104th Congress)
In 1993, H. Res. 71 (a rule for H.R. 1, “The Family Medical Leave Act”), considered the Senate amendment to H.R. 1 adopted upon adoption of the rule. (103rd Congress)