Washington (CNN) – Can the House of Representatives pass a health care bill without actually voting on it?
That question - bizarre to most casual political observers - took center stage Tuesday as top House Democrats struggled to find enough support to push President Barack Obama's top legislative priority over the finish line.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote later this week on the roughly $875 billion bill passed by the Senate in December. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, needs a bare majority of 216 votes from her 253-member caucus to pass the measure. No Republicans are expected to back it.
Pelosi's problem: A lot of House Democrats don't like the Senate bill. Among other things, some House members have expressed concern that the Senate bill does not include an adequate level of subsidies to help middle- and lower-income families purchase coverage. They also object to the Senate's proposed tax on high-end insurance plans.
Pelosi's solution: Have the House pass the Senate bill, but then immediately follow up with another vote in both chambers of Congress on a package of changes designed in part to make the overall legislation more acceptable to House Democrats.
Now, however, Pelosi may also try to help unhappy House Democrats by allowing them to avoid a direct up or down vote on the Senate bill. The speaker may call for a vote on a rule that would simply "deem" the Senate bill to be passed. The House would then proceed to a separate vote on the more popular changes to the Senate bill.
House GOP leaders will try to block the procedure, a House GOP aide told CNN Tuesday morning. They will try to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Senate health care bill to be brought to an actual up or down vote, the aide said.
Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the maneuver Pelosi's "scheme and deem" plan Tuesday morning. He said the maneuver was "jaw-dropping in its audacity."
The "process has been tainted," he said on the Senate floor. This "will go down as one of the most extraordinary legislative sleights of hand in history. ... Make no mistake: this will be a career-defining and a Congress-defining vote."
He said the "entire effort has been a travesty."
"To resort to these kinds of tactics to deal with this [bill] is just plain wrong," Rep. David Dreier, R-California, said Monday.
"While the process of lawmaking should be ugly, I have never seen it as ugly as it seems to be coming before us this week. ... I think that [James] Madison would be spinning in his grave at the fact that there is absolutely no accountability to what is taking place here."
Vince Morris, spokesman for House Rules Committee chair Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, said leaders haven't decided how the vote will be structured, but told CNN that folding the vote on the Senate bill into a rule vote is being considered.
"We're looking at a couple of different ways to get the bill to the floor and any path we take will obviously require a majority House vote," he said. "And it's worth pointing out that whatever we do will be built upon the precedents of the house and familiar to Republicans from when they held the majority."
–CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Alan Silverleib and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
This report was updated at 11:00 with new information.
Bribes, Twists, Shannigans, Backroom deals, secret discussions, etc. The Dems are going to be destroyed in November – and I can't wait to sit back and enjoy the bloodbath!
Deem and Pass?
I call it the Demon Pass – it bypasses the satan worshipping, fake family, fake value, fake christian, right wing-nuts.
What kind of joke is this? It just shows what a piece of garbage this bill is if they have to sneak it into law. Do they really believe the voters will not hold them responsible in November because they didn't "vote" for the bill? I won't vote for one single House member who doesn't take a stand, whether for or against.
If they pass the bill America will have experienced a major change in our government. With the majority of Americans against this bill and desiring a real reform bill, the Democrats will change our government from one of individual representation to one where the Democratic Congress rules over the people.
blah blah blah. Shut up Republicans! You have done this MANY times to get your way. Now that the shoe is on the other foot...
I am not sure it is all right to use the underhanded processes that the hypocritical republicans used.
Boy, the dems will do whatever it takes to ram this crap down our throats when most everybody doesn't want it! And they talk about Republicans trying to cause trouble.....
come on now, even you CNN-liberals can't agree with this! The most drastic change to our economy and entitlements since medicare and social security and you think its 'OK' to let it squeek by using underhanded measures and back room deals? This is NOT the way the legislative body is supposed to conduct its business... I can only hope that through 'checks and balances' the supreme court (the only TRUE non-activist branch) will nullify anything that comes out of this congress.
Why was it so easy to vote for money to go to war against a country with no weapons get our troops committed and killed with no real proof,yet when it comes to health care reform everyone is up in arms.We need health care reform because there are so many people that are without insurance who if they had insurance could go for preventive care instead of letting their health problems grow.No matter what our children and grandchildren will be stuck paying for health care for the uninsured in some form.We pay with higher hospital cost to cover for the ones that cannot pay right now so it would benifit us now to pass a bill that would help lower some of these cost.
What happened to the President's demand for an "up or down vote"? I bet he backs away from that the same we he backed away from his demand that the sweetheart deals get cut. Democrat = coward.
First, I apologize. I have been voting against Clyburn for years, but the way his district is (illegally) drawn, he will NEVER be voted out of office.
Second, this is typical government takeover. Let's just say the bill was passed and bypass a vote altogether. What a joke, except it is not funny. Why don't we just 'deem' every Obama decree passed? Call me crazy, but I feel like were slipping ever closer to opening the door for a dictator state.
The time to vote is NOW! If Republicans do not want to support insuring 30 million Americans, fine! They'll feel the wrath of the voters in November.
What the heck is the problem? House Dem.'s – PASS THE BILL ALREADY and then we can look at modifications later, hopefully, to include a public option. I do NOT understand what the hold-up is. I'm beginning to wish Michael Moore would consider running for a seat either in the House or Senate. This cannot drag out any longer. What are the House / Senate Dem.'s waiting on? The Midterm elections maybe? That's LUDICROUS !!
This really is scary. I don't care what side you're on, this tactic is very disturbing. Remember, dems won't be in control forever. At least not until they leaglize all the illegal aliens. This kind of tactic can come back to haunt you. We're heading towards a dicatorship. Stock up on your ammo!!!
This will pass, and we'll all talk about how much it helps for the rest of our lives.
Oh sure... there will be the story of some abuse – just like there is now. But it will be someone on the poor end of the scale getting a few extra dollars and not a health insurance exec getting billions. I can accept the former cheat more than the latter.
IF, and I mean "if", the House goes down this path, then from this day forward, Pelosi will be referred by me as Madame Chicken. This is a chicken manuever. If this health care reform is as beneficial for all residents of the United States as they claim, why don't they stand up and vote proudly for it? You can't honestly tell me that just because it provides federal funds for abortions, or just because it doesn't include a public option, or just because it swells the national debt would prevent 216 people from standing up and make a positive impact on hundreds of millions of people.
I guess Rev. Wright was right. The "chickens" have come home to roost ... and they are sitting in Congress right now.
We have a real mess on our hands...
Congress beware!... November is coming.
Got get em Nancy
"To resort to these kinds of tactics to deal with this [bill] is just plain wrong,"
First of all, it is only wrong when Democrats avail themselves of these LEGAL maneuvers. When Rethugs do it, it is perfectly okay, maybe even called for. Whatever, Rethugs.
Here's the rub: the President is no dummy. Matter of fact he was a professor of Constitutional Law, legalities and such are right up his alley. Turns out he's not just another "pretty face" or an "empty suit". But hey if it makes some of you feel better, continue to underestimate this "boy".
When republicans spends money and create deficits ( Bush unpaid tax cuts, the war in Iraq etc), they don't count. What Republicans did when they held the majority is not bad until democrats do it
How in this country can you vote without a vote? What next martial law to keep the 2012 vote from happening? This group of so called 'progressives', which is nothing more that code speak for socialists, are about to kill this country and what it has stood for. It's clear that those in power don't care what we the people have to say, its what THEY want THEY think they know whats best for us. What ever happened to a 'Government for the people, by the people' PLEASE GET THESE IDIOTS OUT OF OFFICE BEFORE THEY DO MORE HARM
Move out of the way lizard brains! The health-care bill is leaving the station! Toot! Toot!
Pass a bill without a vote? Obama and the Dem's in congress are really sick people. Get me a job and I'll take care of my healthcare.
The battle is over power and control and trash the will OF THE PEOPLE and the Constitution. This is Marxism and the arrogance of those who 'know best' is demeaning to the citizens. I was not born here, and became a citizen because of and to defend those freedoms and I see that the nation is being ruled from the White House by one who 'does not love this country and that for which it stands.
Whatever it takes let's just get this done. We have yet to hear an alternative bill from the GOP...so we have to assume that they really DO NOT have an option other than voting NO to anything. That being the case ...what is out there should a base so that we have a foundation for changes in the future. Just as we did with Medicare and Social Security. I cannot believe that my former party has not offered ANYTHING ...just NO, and , Start over !!! I am one disgusted Moderate and until the GOP gets their act together ..change some of the idiots who CLAIM to be the NEW DIRECTION of the GOP...I will swollow my pride and vote Democratic. The GOP claim the most are not in favor of this bill. THEY ARE WRONG. I have developed more of and understanding of this legislation over the last month and have to say it is liveable. Besides they weren't concerned about the majority of Americans in the 2000 election were they ??? Gore bet "W" by over 250,000 votes...but the will of the opeople didn't mean much to the GOP in that instance. It will be a blood bath for the GOP in Nov...the moderate and "TRUELY" independent voters have watch this scenerio of the GOP over the last year and how they have attacked this young President and his Party.....believe me, the opinion of the average voter will not bode well for the GOP on election day.