Reporters mobbed House majority leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) media briefing today, firing off question after question about “deem-and-pass,” a parliamentary maneuver Dems may use to vote on the Senate health care bill and a package of “fixes” simultaneously. Republicans and the press have described the procedure as allowing Democrats to pass health care reform without voting on it—as I left Hoyer’s briefing, the chyron on MSNBC read “No Votes Needed?”—but that’s misleading.
In any case, “real Americans” don’t care about “process” issues like deem-and-pass, Hoyer argued. “In the final analysis, what is interesting to the American public is what we do for them,” Hoyer said. He defended deem-and-pass as “consistent with the rules” and “consistent with former practice,” and he’s right on that front: Republicans set new records for using the procedure when they last controlled the House. That makes the GOP “hypocritical at best” for criticizing Democrats on this front, Hoyer said.
But the criticism of the maneuver isn’t coming just from Republicans. Left-leaning commentators—including The New Republic‘s Jon Chait, the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, and our own Kevin Drum—have also slammed the idea, mostly because they believe it’s bad politics for the Dems. Interestingly, Hoyer left open the possibility of using a different procedure to pass the bill. He interrupted himself in the middle of defending “deem and pass” to clarify that his caucus hasn’t settled on using it. “We haven’t decided on a process at this point in time,” he said. “That’s being debated, what process we want to pursue.” Indeed.