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.
Well its about time the Democrats have united for the cause and not focused on the Republicans anymore...!!! The people are behind you guys because you're working for us and not the "Party of NO", so let them try their gimmicks of obstructing but it won't work this go around!
Comments closed, comrade. Take your complaints to the Department of Someone Who Cares.
Another deceptive headline – the House is still going to vote on health care, whether as a rule or directly. The minority Republican Party still has its chance to remain steadfastly the party of no, my daddy didn't need no stinking health care.
No comments, please. We can handle running government without you.
i think it is sick that we have politicians who actually do not care for the american people at all, this bill is for us, you have your health care plan, that gets paid for by the american people, who cares about the cost ? i dont, we live in a country that literally prints money, stop making excuses
Can we just drop the health care debate and help us find jobs.
I am just beside myself how this bill has not passed. it is amazing to me how a few people can make noise about doing something and the majority is ignored. 95% of my CO WORKERS do not have insurance and our very demanding job is not offering. If the government looks at the numbers, the fact which do not lie then the there should be no reason for discussion or debate. The reality is the middle class are the people without insurance. the very poor has medicare and the rich have the insurance or work for the government and the middle class work hard with no tax breaks and no insurance
I thought this was a government of the PEOPLE for the PEOPLE!!!!!
What do the Democrats need to understand this? Do they not realize that this type of government dictation of our lives is what stirred the first American revolution?
The constitution contains no provision for the speaker of the house to be deemed a dictator. I thought this was the US, not Nazi Germany.
Major BS! Our forefathers are rolling over in their graves right now at this latest act that is slowly but surely decaying our Republic. If this healthcare plan is sooooo great, why not have a traditional vote? Pelosi and company know its bunk and they are going to do their best to ram this down our throats. I cannot wait to vote all these jokers out of office.
Just pass the bill. Contrary to what the Republicans are spewing, the vast majority support the bill.
The Dems. have a history of failing to execute good ideas and the Republicans execute bad ideas....go figure?
Amen! Just get it done. We need health care reform now.
Passing the bill without a vote: its called Dictatorship.
AMERICA has been taken over by its politicians in a deluded attempt to conquer our Nation. It's time to bring out TREASON charges.
There are people who are in power in the US that should be in jail.
Get it done already. It's not perfect by any means but the House has to pass the Senate bill in order to make changes to it and then they can try to get in all the things that they really want... some of which will probably get through the Senate. I say GO FOR IT!
This is NOT a NEW TWIST or a tactic! It is a perfectly legitmate congressional procedure to use. If it were illegal or somehow immoral, it wouldn't be allowed. The only time Republicans have a problem with these procedures is when it is in reference to a bill that they don't like...hypocrites!
I pray that the House dems do this unconscionable act. If the Republicans were already set up for a landslide later this year, the dems' attempt to do this will transform it into nothing short of a political annihilation.
Excellent. Now get this done so businesses can start saving money in insurance and start hiring people back to work, and more importantly paying them a decent wage.
They still have to pass the final bill with a majority. There is nothing wrong with this. THE FINAL BILL THAT WILL BE SIGNED BY THE PRESIDENT WILL PASS WITH A MAJORITY VOTE. Get health care passed. We are the only advanced country in the world that does not have a form of universal health care (the public option) and it is hurting everyone that lives and works in this country.
WHAT? No "they" can pass legislation without letting constituents know how they voted? Congress can pass legislation without accountability to the voter? Is this even Constitutional?
What kind of government is this exactly? Not US government that much is certain.
I don't think the democrats have been concerned about democracy up to this point so why not.
ya what ever it takes do it lol and if the repubs don't like it ,,,to bad they can go down with the CEO'S of the insurance compnies .. get it done :)
the repubs ;ie all day every day because the insurance companies own them ....like sheep or a steer on the way to the slauter house baa baa moo moo !!! :)
No...James Madison would be spinning in his grave at the sheer and utter disrespect that the Republicans and the so-called Tea Partiers have shown toward the President of the United States!! He would be appalled at signs showing him with bones in his nose and Congressmen yelling "you lie" in the middle of a Presidential address....if this is a congressional procedure then it is governed by the rules of the Congress. Stop with all this "no accountability" nonsense. Where were you when Bush and the Congress were leading us into a unjust war? Where were your calls for accountability then? Halliburton? Blackwater? Where was the call for accountability?