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.
And desperation sets in...
Let me ask this. If the bill is so great, why do they have to resort to such methods? Does't the method speak for itself?
If you dance with the Devil you have to pay fiddle player. Expect a lot of change. I don't think this is the change everyone hoped for.
If the Republicans don't like the rules, they should change them when they are back in power. Just like the Democrats did in Massachusetts. Oh, that's right, changing the rules to suit yourself at your moment of need tends to come back and bite you somewhere later.
Democrats won. Plain and simple. Pass the bill any way you have to. If the Republicans and the rest of the country (as they claim) don't like it then they can vote the Democrats out. I just don't see what their complaints are.
Its the rules stupid!
the House should approve without vote, because the Republicans is not about advancing the welfare of American, only selfish self interests, and big business
Of course they could...they are the majority and can pretty much do anything they want. It all hinges upon whether they want to win in the November mid terms and any other national election for the next ten years or so. You insult the American voter and the memory will last a long, long, time.
How could such a "popular bill (as you liberals say) have to pass by such unscrupulous means?
And you guys thought the Bush administration was bad.
The Dems will stoop to anything, including violating the Constitution, to ram this garbage down our throats. If they do , it will be a bloodbath in the Nov. Elections.
The democrats are head and sholders more power humgry than the repubs ever were. all the fools who support this bill think that they will get instant health care. Sorry folks, the benefits do not take effect for four years after the current Dems can run for cover and not take responsibility for bankrupting the country
Most of the Dems still are not listening to the people of their states and I dont understand why.
I wrote my senator Claire McCaskill and asked her what was the good and the bad in the bill. What I got was a standard feel good letter about all the good things in the bill.
When I wrote her back and asked about some of the bad things(wont get into it here) in the bill 3 weeks ago I got the same letter.
Last night Sen Carnahan had a town hall meeting for us, GET THIS, the town hall meeting was over the phone and only a few select questions were allowed to be asked. There was a few votes that you could get in on, but it was that if you agreed on cirtain things in the bill. Of course all of questions were on things that all of Americans agree upon.
I was waiting for the big question of if Missourians wanted this bill or not and it never came. A PHONE TOWN HALL MEETING, What a joke
This is what the Dems are doing guys, splineless little weasels, why do they want to put something through so bad that they are willing to resort to tactics like this. IM ASHAMED of our two Senators and we wont be needing their help any longer next election.
2010/2012 REAL Change is coming
Has anyone read this bill?
This action would definitely cause a revolt! It would be so devisive among the population that the country would take a long time to recover. There is little trust with our politicians now and I have no trust in the democrats who use money to buy votes and bullying tactics. I am disgusted with the direction of this country.
If they try to pass this bill, with such methods......they are contributing to the creation of a dictatorship........pure and simple.
I am bringing change to Washington! Change on how we get bills passed! Hahahahahahaha!
Why don't the dems just burn the constitution. This is all so wrong.
Do the democrats understand that they are destroying the party? This Bill is unpopulare because the PEOPLE don't want it. The republicans are listening, the democrats aren't. The PEOPLE will remember come November.
Just called Ben Chandlers office to let him know how disgusted I am at his position. He is one of 16 dems labeled as a firm NO. I told him that this is something he should be willing to lose his job over. It's not the perfect bill, but if we do nothing, this won't get fixed for another 70 years. Let's pass this thing and then go back and tweek it. Doing NOTHING is NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!
What's wrong is republicans playing politics with our lives.
Plus, if using these "kinds of tactics" were wrong, they would have never been designed to be used. duh. Get over it!
I would demand we impeach them if they take that measure. if you work in a average place and dont listen to what your boss wants you get fired, This should be no diffrent!
Gee,it just gets better and better,NOW ,the dems have found a way to get this bill done,WHICH MAJORITY OPPOSES,without voting,so much for the open forum and honesty.
So what we're saying is that House Democrats don't even have the courage to do an up or down vote. I've never been more disgusted with Democrats.
I know nothing- NOTHING! I see nothing. I hear nothing.
Sorry, Herr Col. Klink.
No more comments. Sorry. They are too abusive to print.