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Explaining 'Deem and Pass'

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Ken Strickland
There have been lots of stories today on the latest legislative tactic Democratic leaders are considering using to try and pass the Senate health-care bill through the House.

This has a variety of names, including its technical one -- the "Self-Executing Rule," the more colloquial "Deem and Pass," or by what Republicans are calling "The Slaughter Rule." (This is named after New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee.)

Some stories have implied that there would not be a vote. For example, the Washington Post had this headline today: "House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it."

This is true in the sense that there would not be a DIRECT vote. But the health-care bill would be voted on INDIRECTLY, tucked into what's known as "the rule." The rule essentially outlines the rules for an upcoming vote -- in this case, it would be the vote on the package of reconciliation fixes.

By passing "the rule," the House also would "deem" the Senate bill passed (with a "hereby" statement. "We hereby deem..."). The House would then vote on the package of reconciliation fixes. But the Senate health-care bill would be considered passed even if they never vote on the reconciliation fixes.

The "rule" can be written several different ways to include passage of the Senate bill. Though no decisions have been made -- including whether or not the rule will be used -- there are two scenarios most often discussed, according to a Democratic aide knee-deep in the process.

Scenario No. 1: The Senate bill is deemed passed with the passage of the House Rule for debate. So once the House passed the rules for debating the reconciliation package, the Senate bill could immediately be sent to president for his signature.

Scenario No. 2: The Senate bill is deemed passed with the House's passage of the reconciliation bill. Since the vote on "the rule" happens before the vote on reconciliation, this would delay the bill being sent to Obama.

Under any scenario, the aide says, the bill must be signed by the president before the Senate takes up the reconciliation.
 
What's the advantage for Democrats?
Why are Democrats considering this even though there will still be a roll-call vote?

There are a number of House Democrats -- either vulnerable in their reelection bids or who don't like the Senate bill -- who want to avoid a DIRECT vote on the health reform bill. They feel this indirect vote -- even though it includes the health-care bill -- gives them a measure of cover politically.

A little history
"Deem and Pass" has been used often and by both parties. Democrats point out that Republicans used it quite a bit in the 1990s, in fact -- though not for something quite as large as this.

In this Congress, Democrats used "Deem and Pass" for raising the debt ceiling, which was tucked into the PayGo bill.