The Democratic meme of the moment is that the Slaughter solution is no biggie, it’s just a self-executing rule of a type that’s been employed many times before and which Republicans themselves use frequently (see also this and this).
Really! Isn’t it odd how we’ve never heard a thing about it before.
So what’s a self-executing rule, and when has the procedure been used in the past, and to what purpose? Take a look at this explanation and list of examples. Ah yes, very similar; a rule to ban smoking on flights longer than two hours corresponds very well to the health care reform bill.
Here’s more about how these rules have actually been employed previously:
Wolfensberger [a former Republican staff director of the House Rules Committee who now directs the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars,] said self-executing rules often have been employed at an earlier stage, rather than for final passage of a bill. He said he knows of four instances when a measure that was deemed to have been passed went directly to the White House. The first, in 1933 during the Great Depression, involved Senate amendments to legislation pertaining to the United States’ creditworthiness. The tactic was employed twice in the 1990s, by Democrats on a bill involving the Family Medical Leave Act, and by Republicans on a measure involving a line-item veto. Most recently, it was used a few weeks ago, when the House voted on both an increase in the debt ceiling and a pay-as-you-go budget provision.
Stanford’s McConnell [director of Stanford Law School's Constitutional Law Center and a former appellate judge appointed by President George W. Bush] said that such a procedure would be unconstitutional in this case because, in passing both the Senate legislation and the changes in the reconciliation package in a single stroke, “no one bill will then have been passed by both the House and the Senate” because the Senate still would have to approve the changes added by the House.
And from Ace:
…[I]n the past, the self-executing “demonpass” dodge was used with regard to legislation that was going to pass anyway; Congress concocted itself a trivial dodge so they could say they hadn’t voted to raise the debt ceiling. But if that dodge had not been available, they would have voted for it.
In such circumstances, the Court can show a bit of restraint and say, basically, “No harm, no foul,” and show the restraint they prefer to show in keeping out of Congress’ internal affairs.
The Democrats are comparing apples to oranges—or perhaps a better analogy would be to swallowing a raisin vs. swallowing an elephant whole. To use the self-executing rule procedure to get around the enormous problems with HCR, which would be one of the most major and transformative and unpopular bills ever passed by Congress, and to act as though there is some equivalence, with previous uses of the rule, is absurd. However, the Democratic leadership and their followers count on most people to (a) not be paying attention to these boring procedural matters; and/or (2) if they are paying attention, to not be interested in the details, and therefore to be soothed by this “oh, it happens all the time in this way, nothing to see here, moving right along” placating, condescending, contemptuous lie.
Here’s lawyer Andy McCarthy on the ploy:
The key here is that in each instance, at issue [in the situations in which the self-executing rule was used] was something that was non-controversial or almost ministerial — not, as with heathcare, an unpopular, bitterly opposed, ragingly controversial socialization of the private economy.
I think Democrats are mistaking a customary short-cut for a substantive precedent.
Just now I happened to turn on Fox News, and caught a Megyn Kelly interview with Judge Michael McConnell (who mentioned that he was one of the people who recruited Obama to teach at the U. of Chicago Law School). He said that in their arguments for the self-executing rule the Democrats are trying, “To claim precedent for one thing and then to use it for a drastically different thing.”
One thing we do know is that, even if we are somehow saved from this travesty because they can’t get the votes even with all the sordid gymnastics, the present-day Democratic Party has shown its hand and let us know its disrespect for the rule of law and the traditions of Congress. Those who have been paying attention are unlikely to forget the lesson. The question is: how many are paying attention?
And how many care any more about the process by which we have remained a nation of liberty—of the people, by the people, and for the people?