Analysis: Jon Ward on the ‘Slaughter solution’

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Ward has been covering the hell out of this, and emails in to the office with his thoughts:

There is a lot of talk and outrage now about the “Slaughter solution” that Democrats are going to use to pass a health care bill.

Some of the outrage and concern is misdirected: legislation is not going to be passed without Congress voting on it.

So in this sense, the Republican charge that Democrats plan to pass health care without a vote is basically false, even if there is a scintilla of technical truth to it.

However, the charge is true in a political sense, sort of. Democrats are going to “deem” the Senate bill passed once the reconciliation bill is passed. In other words, it will be a two-for-one vote, with the Senate bill folded in because many House Democrats don’t want to “vote,” in a technical sense, for the bill.

But their vote for the reconciliation bill will still stand as a vote for the Senate health care bill, to almost any sane person.

It’s still unclear to me whether moderate Democrats whose constituents hate the bill for cost reasons — but who are under tremendous pressure from Democratic leaders to vote for it — think the “Slaughter solution” will give them any political cover.

Whatever they think, it’s pretty obvious that if you vote for reconciliation that deems the Senate bill passed, people who hate the legislation are not going to give you a pass because you only voted for the reconciliation bill and didn’t technically vote for the actual bill. Matt Yglesias makes a similar point.

Here’s where there may be a plausible form of political cover: liberals who hate the Senate bill, who are worried the Senate may renege on promises to pass the reconciliation fix once it’s out of the House, could in such a scenario tell constituents, “Hey, I voted to fix the Senate bill but then they screwed us.”

I’m not sure why voting up or down on both the Senate bill and the reconciliation wouldn’t allow liberals to make the same case, however.

There’s also some talk that pro-life Democrats could vote for the reconciliation bill and be given cover since they could say they didn’t actually vote for the Senate bill with the language that they feel puts federal money toward abortion. But again, is anyone really going to buy that?

But that’s what this whole debate is about. It’s not about “no vote” in an absolute sense. It’s about “no vote” in a political sense, which will really not end up being perceived as “no vote” anyway.

Suffice to say, a lot of us are wondering why Democrats are doing this. Given the political uproar today and the appearance of trickery that the move creates, it’s worth wondering whether this was worth it. ThinkProgress’ Wonk Room also thinks this whole exercise has been more trouble than it was worth.