Democrats put on the defensive over ‘Slaughter solution’

Jon Ward Contributor
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Democrats Tuesday were on the defensive as Republican outrage grew over the possible passage of health care without a vote, which one House lawmaker called “un-American.”

Democratic leaders tried to deflect the criticism by downplaying the importance of process and by focusing on how the legislation will benefit the American people.

“‘So what?’ says the American public,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “What they’re interested in is: ‘What resulted? What did you do for me and my family to make my life more secure, better, of greater quality?’”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a press conference to talk about how a bill will help seniors, one day after a similar event drawing attention to aid for children.

Hoyer, in a session with reporters in his Capitol office, said Democrats are using the so-called “Slaughter solution,” which would “deem” the Senate bill passed if the House passed a reconciliation bill to fix it, “for the same reason Republicans used this process.”

His technical explanation indicated that the process is going to be used to give liberal Democrats who don’t like the Senate bill an out in case the Senate goes back on its promise to pass the reconciliation bill, leaving the original Senate bill as the law of the land.

Liberal Democrats will be able to tell their constituents that they voted for the fix of the Senate bill, which many of them don’t like because it reduces subsidies for Americans without health insurance.

Moderate Democrats in districts with strong opposition to the health-care bill would not likely be able to plausibly say that they did not vote for the legislation.

But the uproar over the use of the “Slaughter solution” — which has been reported on for days but became a front-burner issue Tuesday for many lawmakers after the Washington Post put it on its front page — raised questions about whether the political damage incurred by the appearance of procedural trickery is worth the cover it gives to liberal Democrats.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, said he will propose a resolution later this week that will force Democrats to vote on whether there will be an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill.

Rank-and-file Republicans took to the House floor to denounce the tactic.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rogers, Washington Republican, said it “ignores the Democratic process” and called it “un-American.”

Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said it is “no wonder the country is outraged not just by the bill, but by the process.”

Hoyer insisted Democrats were “playing it straight.”

“We’re gonna vote on a bill and on a rule which will provide for the result that, if a majority are for it, will adopt a bill, the senate bill,” he said. “We will vote on it in one form or another.”

Vincent Morris, a spokesman for House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat, said the tactic has been used since 1933 and has been utilized over the years “far more often by Republicans than by Democrats.”

Morris provided more than 30 examples of “self-executing rules” being used during the past 20 years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, took to the Senate floor to denounce the tactic, saying it has “never been tried on a bill of this scope.”

“Anybody who thinks this is a good strategy isn’t thinking clearly. They’re too close to the situation,” McConnell said.