Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deem and Pass

I guess everyone is still talking about this still.  The best I've read today is what Kevin Drum has to say.  As he says, and as everyone who supports the bill seems to be saying, is that
[D]eem-and-pass won't help anyone, puts process back in the news, will give Republicans another free shot at Democrats, and makes individual House members look like cowards. But other than that it's a great idea.
That's from the first post Drum had on the subject today; the second post (link above) is even better. Read 'em both.

And, sorry about this, but I'm just going to quote what I said on Sunday:
Look, Democrats are committed to this bill.  They're committed if the bill dies, they're committed if the bill passes, and they're committed whichever way they structure their votes.  Sure, they might as well repeal all those evil deals (which, it's worth remembering, are probably responsible for getting the bill this far, and at least in my view are a reasonable cost of doing business -- not that any Democrat should ever 'fess up to that particular reality in public).  But as soon as the bills pass, the spin war changes -- and it would be a very foolish move to make the first step of that spin war one that will look bad to the Broders of the world.  The Democrats should just take the votes, and focus on the things they really want to sell about this bill, which are the immediate and long-term benefits for the American people.


  1. Jonathan, I think you (and Kevin Drum) are missing the point. Drum imagines attack ads against Democrats that might be sharper if they have this maneuver to criticize along with criticizing the bill itself. But this presumes that Republicans will run fact-based attack ads. All historical experience tells us that what they'll actually do is lie and distort, and the "deem and pass" strategy is meant to limit their opportunities for doing that.

    Thus: There are undoubtedly Democrats who fear attack ads that say, "Congressman Q voted for the 'Cornhusker Kickback' [or other unpopular Provision X]." The ads won't explain that what Congressman Q actually did is vote for a big bill that contained the kickback, and then, five seconds later, voted for another (reconciliation "sidecar") bill that removed it. Instead they will, in effect, lie about Congressman Q's position on the kickback.

    The deem-and-pass maneuver is meant to avoid this. By folding the Senate bill into the reconciliation sidecar and making it all one vote, you eliminate even that five-second interval between the votes for and against the kickback. It all becomes a single vote against.

    Whether that's sound strategic thinking or not is another question, but I'm sure that's the thinking, and Drum's argument just fails to address it.

  2. No, House Dems are the ones who are missing the point. Deem-and-pass won't stop Republicans from saying that House Dems voted for Nasty Provision. They'll still say it. Even worse for Dems, neutral editorial boards will probably side with Republicans if the question is whether Rep. Smith voted for it...whereas without deem-and-pass, the editorial board might side with the Dem on the issue of whether the nasty provision ever took effect.

    You're right that it is intended to stop Republicans from making that claim, but Drum's point (and mine, and others) is that it will be totally ineffective at so doing, while opening up a new, and fairly legitimate, line of attack.

  3. OK, you take an even dimmer view of editorial boards than I do (and mine is pretty dim). I don't see how they could believe that someone voted for X when the vote was actually on a bill *removing* X. But maybe you're right. At any rate, I agree that this sort of defensive maneuver is silly when passing the bill gives you an overwhelming, non-process response, like "My opponent believes that insurance companies should be free to screw you out of health care." But there are bound to be a few Democrats inclined to act on irrational fears, and obviously that's what Pelosi has to deal with.

  4. I'm a Canadian which I realize means it is impossible for me to understand how Americans think and more specifically how the American media presents issues. Jefferson Smith is the first person i've seen who has articulated the issue as I see it. If anything the deem-and-pass is the most honest. Normally one has a motion, one votes on any amendments first, and then one votes on the motion as amended. Surely that is functionally what is being done here: one is skipping to the last step and voting the total final package, not first voting on the unamended motion (the Semate Bill with Cornhuskers provision) then the amendments (get rid of Cornhuskers' provision; process over without the normal final step of voting motion as amended.

  5. and while I'm at it, isn't the real point that despite what the media says that it takes 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate, it actually only takes 51 votes. What takes 60 is to pass a cloture vote to cut off the filibuster so one can have an up or down vote. If the republicans in the Senate weren't filibustering, one could have the normal process and pass the legislation in the historically normal way. The deem and pass is simply part of a parliamentary process to defeat the threatened filibuster- that is what is really preventing an up or down vote.

  6. The Broders of this world hate Democrats (except for the 'Ididntleavemypartyitleftme' type who spend more time with the GOP), and will do so until some once in a century realignment makes the Democratic Party the rightwing party in the USA. Expecting their support or even neutrality is foolish.

    Pass the f*cking bill, and tell the GOP to STFU.


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