Good Riddance to “Deem and Pass”
by Nathan Empsall, Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 04:00:30 PM EDT
Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership are abandoning the "deem and pass" route on health insurance reform and will hold separate votes on the Senate's insurance bill and the House's reconciliation fixes, The Hill reports. This is a good thing, for at least three reasons that I can see.
First and perhaps most importantly, deem and pass would have ticked off an already angry public. The current Real Clear Politics average on health care polling is 40.4% in favor and 49.1% against. And yet as we all know, polls on the ideas contained within the bill that don't actually mention the bill show support for such measures. The reason, the CW goes and I think, that so many people oppose they would like if they studied it isn’t about policy but about politics. Voters are ticked at the process – the fact that Republicans frequently used both budget reconciliation and "deem and pass" when in power bedamned. According to a poorly worded and biased question in a recent Fox "News" poll, "about a third of voters (31 percent) think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are 'playing by the rules' to get health care through, while 53 percent think they are 'changing the rules.'" That clearly isn’t true, but perception matters, and using "deem and pass" could have caused irreparable harm to Democratic perception.
Why are voters all of a sudden so angry about age-old procedural measures? Because they didn't know about them before. We live in a new and different media age with unprecedented access to political minutia - but that's another issue entirely.
Second, and this should be fairly obvious: If a bill, even one I desperately support that would help the nation for decades to come, doesn’t have the votes to pass, then it should not pass. That wouldn’t just be undemocratic, it would be anti-democratic. Voters know this, and thankfully the House leadership listened. Besides, deem and pass probably would have HARMED the bill’s chances of passing. Vegas oddsmakers give the reforms a 70% chance of passing on their own, but several Members, including Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA), said they couldn’t go along with the procedural gimmick on a bill they otherwise support – and if I were in Congress, I’d likely side with them myself. So ditching deem and pass helps both democracy AND the bill.
Finally, a controversial, high profile bill made law through “deem and pass” would be subject to legal concerns. They might not be well-founded and could well lose every single Court challenge, but that’s no guarantee. Holding a regular vote, if nothing else, will help the bill avoid such challenges and go into effect earlier.
So hello health insurance and good riddance deem and pass.