Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not Even A Vote?!


Health Reform: Using a parliamentary trick ironically known as the "self-executing rule," Democrats plan on passing their massive health bill without voting. In November, they'll learn just how "self-executing" it was.

Just when you thought Washington couldn't get more corrupt, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week seems intent on trampling representative government itself. Unable to get the votes to pass their U.S. health care revolution, she and her fellow Democratic leaders have figured out a way to pass it without a vote.

The "self-executing rule" has been "used to adopt concurrent resolutions correcting the enrollment of measures or to make other technical changes to legislation," according to the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.

It's "a two-for-one procedure," as the CRS describes it, because the House of Representatives always must pass a rule, written by the House Rules Committee (where Democrats hold a 9-to-4 majority), setting the terms of debate on a particular piece of legislation. In this case, it's been rigged so that if the rule passes, the legislation passes too.

The trick has been used before, as cited by the CRS, on obscure measures like the prohibition of smoking on airline flights in 1989, an employee verification program regarding illegal aliens in 1996, the blocking of the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 census until federal courts could determine its constitutionality, and an IRS overhaul in 1997.

But never on anything approaching such landmark legislation.

Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, is among a number of legal scholars who believe this Slaughter Solution, named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., "would stand a very good chance of being tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court."

In the 1998 Clinton v. City of New York ruling on the line-item veto, liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, "laid a likely road map for how the court might rule on a challenge to the constitutionality of the Slaughter Solution," according to Ridenour.

Stevens made note of "three procedural steps" that must be taken before a bill becomes law:  The "exact text" must be "approved by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives"; the Senate must approve "precisely the same text"; and the same text must be "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."

Indeed, Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution couldn't be clearer: "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."

Michael McConnell, a former federal judge and director of Stanford University's Constitutional Law Center, writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, declared the trick unconstitutional because "this means that no single bill will have passed both houses in the same form." Talk radio host and Landmark Legal Foundation President Mark Levin warned of its use sparking "the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War."

The president, the speaker and the rest of those involved in one-party rule in Washington may think they know what's good for the American people better than the people do.

Do they also think they know better than the framers of the Constitution and their naive ideas of one man, one vote?

If anything could swell the ranks of the populist Tea Party movement and make it friendlier to Republican candidates this November, it's executing the "self-executing rule."

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