Hoyer defends tactic to 'deem' approval of Senate health bill without voting on it

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday defended a tactic that would allow the House to “deem” the Senate healthcare bill passed without actually voting on the bill.

Hoyer (D-Md.) said at his weekly news conference that a rule deeming the Senate bill passed is consistent with procedures and practices used by Republicans and Democrats alike, and that it’s appropriate for a bill that will be moments away from being amended anyway.

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Use of such a maneuver is under harsh attack from Republicans, who say it’s at best an avoidance of accountability and at worst a violation of the House rules and an affront to the Constitution.

“If we pursue this process, it is consistent with the rules, it is consistent with former practice, and in my opinion will be consistent with having members express themselves on the Senate bill as amended by reconciliation,” Hoyer said.

The majority leader said he doesn’t expect voters to home in on the process, noting that they focus on the endgame.

“We talk a lot about process in this town,” Hoyer said. " 'So what?’ says the American public.  What they’re interested in [is] ‘What result? What did you do for me and my family to make our life more secure, better, of greater quality?’ And that’s what we’re trying to do.

“We didn’t win and Republicans didn’t lose because they held a vote open for three hours,” Hoyer added, referring to the 2003 Medicare prescription drug vote in the House. “They lost because of substance.”

But when pressed about why Democrats would avoid a separate vote on the Senate bill if they believe the American public’s “final analysis” will be based on the end result, Hoyer responded; “For the same reason Republicans used this process.

“The American public believes that if a majority of those elected by them to office decide that something is good, after full and wholesome debate, it ought to pass,” he explained.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has acknowledged that Democrats are considering the option in part because votes for the Senate bill are hard to come by, and in part to shield members from attacks directed at their support for certain provisions in the Senate bill, including the “Cornhusker Kickback.”

Republicans have pounced on the issue, and many took to the floor Tuesday to decry the tactic as an avoidance of responsibility and potentially unconstitutional.

“The Constitution provides that a bill becomes a law if it passes the House and the Senate,” Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said, warning that passing the Senate bill without an up-or-down vote would be a “betrayal of the commitment from every member of this Congress to the American people.”

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