Two things seem likely to happen this weekend on the “healthcare insurance reform” debate in Washington. The first is that the House Leadership (aka Speaker Pelosi) will use a non-voting procedural measure called “Deem & Pass” to move the Senate bill through the House. This procedure is not, in my opinion, a real vote which means that the outcome of the debate will wind up in court. But, “Deem & Pass” will be used. Second, the budget “reconciliation” process will be used to amend the Senate bill.
Two new precedents will be set in Congress– dangerous precedents to both liberals and conservatives, but they will be worse for liberals. The precedents are that neither of these two procedures have been used for highly partisan issues in the past, but they will be used from now into the future.
You see, if you can “deem & pass” this partisan bill, then you can “deem & pass” future partisan bills – i.e. no vote will happen, just move the bill to the Senate. “Reconciliation” in the Senate requires only 51 votes — no need for 60, no super-majority. The Leftist leadership of the Congress will make passing bills much, much easier from now on.
In 2010, it is highly likely that both Chambers of Congress swing to Republican control — although just barely. However, with the new precedents of “deem & pass” and “reconciliation”, the new highly politicized, conservative leadership will be able to pass and/or repeal numerous pieces of legislation with slim majorities — forcing a lot of Obama vetoes and tying up whatever is left of his Presidential agenda.
For the long term the situation gets worse for liberals. The 20+ year “Battleground” poll has continually shown that the US is a center-right nation by a 2-1 margin. Even if it is a center-right nation by a 55-45 margin, “deem & pass” and “reconciliation” gives the center-right the long term advantage to move through highly ideological legislation with slim majorities most times with a favorable President (e.g. Presidents Reagan, Bush, & Bush or a pragmatist like President Clinton).
Mark my words… If the liberal and partisan leadership of the Congress take these short-sighted actions, they will look back in regret within the next few years. The rules of legislative action are designed to protect the minority. Eliminating rules for short term political gain is a long term recipe for disaster because the left will be in the minority again (as a further example, just look who inhabits the “Kennedy” seat).
As a card carrying member of the center-right, it’ll be a good thing for my “side”. However, human nature being what it is, absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the risk is there from the center-right as well. Procedural rules protect everyone.