The Senate's second-ranking Republican predicted legal challenges if Democrats use a controversial tactic to move healthcare reform.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday said litigation could result if Democrats draft a rule that deems the Senate healthcare bill as having been passed. The rule would also cover a package of changes to the Senate bill that House lawmakers would vote on.

Kyl told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that the challenges would be based upon the substance of the legislation and the process used, one of the strongest statements at this stage of the debate from a GOP lawmaker.


"There will be both challenges to the substance of the legislation and also the procedure by which it was done if they use this deeming procedure," he said. 

House Democratic leades have said the "deem and pass" plan is an option under consideration.

The move would allow Democrats to avoid a tough vote on the Senate bill, which is unpopular among many House members. The party has defended the move by saying that the GOP has used it on many occasions.

But Republicans have railed against the "deem and pass" plan, saying the House has not used the procedure to approve such a large piece of legislation.

Liberals challenged the Republicans' use of the procedure in court in 2005 when they approved a debt-limit increase with it.

Republicans have floated that some parts of the bill are unconstitutional, such as the individual mandate to buy health insurance. Several GOP state attorneys general also threatened legal action if Medicaid money slated for Nebraska and emergency health relief funds for Louisiana were not taken out of the bill. 

Kyl said that the GOP plans to do everything it can to stop the healthcare bill from passing but added that if it passes the House, which he thinks it won't, "In some respects, the battle will have been lost at that point."

The package of changes to the Senate bill would still need to be approved by the Senate, but would be considered under budget reconciliation rules that would prevent a GOP filibuster.