GOP Pushes for Up-or-Down House Vote on Obamacare

Wednesday, 17 Mar 2010 08:32 PM

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Republican leaders in the House plan to force a vote Thursday on a resolution that would block Democrats from using the controversial “deem-and-pass” maneuver to approve the Senate healthcare reform bill.

It’s part of an unfolding strategy that also will employ lawsuits arguing that Obamacare is unconstitutional if the costly healthcare overhaul is passed into law.

Meanwhile, House administrators estimated that Capitol switchboard operators are fielding roughly 40,000 calls an hour from angry constituents – the result of a campaign by leading conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who gave his listening audience the Capitol switchboard phone number and encouraged them to call it.

Limbaugh has made his case to listeners for two days.

“I think it is pedal-to-the-metal time, and even if you have been e-mailing and faxing and calling, I think it's time to intensify it,” he said Wednesday. “You call the local offices. You call the Washington office of these people, the Democrats and so forth … The Republicans can’t stop it. Not with votes. They don't have the votes to stop it, but you can.

“I normally don't do this, but time to throw down the gauntlet here and really ratchet it up, to go along with all the other pressure that is being brought to bear elsewhere throughout the rest of the media,” Limbaugh said.

The House GOP resolution, which requires representatives to take an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed healthcare bill, will be introduced by recent party-switcher Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., according to an early version of a news release from Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, obtained by Roll Call.

The procedural maneuver will come after a closed-door, bicameral Republican Conference meeting scheduled for Thursday morning inside the House chamber.

Republicans are continuing to study ways to present a united front against Obamacare in the final days of debate. Democrats now believe they will have the votes to pass healthcare reform by the weekend, though GOP leaders say they are still scrambling for support.

House GOP leaders also joined forces with Rules Committee Republicans on Wednesday to press Democratic leaders to allow cameras to broadcast the committee’s debate over the healthcare reform bill and to move the meeting to a larger room, according to Roll Call.

“I have often said process is substance, and never has that been the case more than this week,” said House Rules ranking member David Dreier, R-Calif. “If we are going to see the federal government contemplate taking over one-sixth of the economy, we need a bigger room.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawyers are conducting research and drafting arguments for lawsuits that could be filed within days or weeks, according to Politico. Much of that effort will be determined by whether House leaders decide to go forward with a “deem & pass” rule that would not permit a freestanding vote on the Senate-passed healthcare reform bill.

“There is a lot of discussion among various lawyers and we’ve had some conference calls,” Cleta Mitchell, a Washington attorney with close Republican ties, told Politico. “People are just distraught that the Democrats are even contemplating doing something like this. It’s utter lawlessness to deem a bill passed without voting for it. It’s horrific.”

Republican leaders are also predicting lawsuits, though it’s unclear whether they will come directly from lawmakers.

“There will be both challenges to the substance of the legislation and to the procedure by which this was done, if they use this deeming procedure,” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Tuesday on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Radio host Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation has said it won’t wait for Obama’s signature, according to Politico. It will file suit when the House adopts the so-called Slaughter rule – the other name for “deem and pass.” A draft court complaint is  posted on the group’s Web site.

But some experts told Politico that GOP challenges to the Slaughter rule may face an uphill battle in the courts because of more than a century of precedent that encourages judges to stay out of disputes over whether a bill was properly passed.

“The Constitution says that each house can write its own rules. Those rules are up to Congress to adopt and they’re not going to be second-guessed by the courts,” Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee University, told Politico. “As long as there is a vote on the language of the Senate bill, however they go about doing this, then the Senate bill is adopted by the house and they’ve met the requirements of the Constitution.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has said repeatedly that he believes the so-called individual mandate provision in the bill, which requires most individuals to have insurance or pay a fine, is unconstitutional. However, that provision doesn’t kick in until 2014. Lawyers told Politico that it’s unclear whether a court would entertain a challenge to a requirement that won’t kick in for years.

“One thing we’ve been doing is looking at which things take effect immediately and which things are deferred,” Mitchell said.



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