Ezra Klein was swept into the presence of The Pelosi to hear her plans for passing health care reform. The result was brain-freeze (my emphasis):
But today, Pelosi made her clearest statements yet on how she means to finish this bill. The issue is how to sequence the Senate health bill, which the House doesn't like, with the package of fixes (including, Pelosi said, the elimination of the Nebraska and Florida deals, the delay of the excise tax, more affordability and oversight provisions and more funding of community health centers), which the House does like. There are a number of procedural options on the table, but today, Pelosi said that she favors the “deem and pass” strategy.
Here's how that will work: Rather than passing the Senate bill and then passing the fixes, the House will pass the fixes under a rule that says the House "deems" the Senate bill passed after the House passes the fixes.
The virtue of this, for Pelosi's members, is that they don't actually vote on the Senate bill. They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn't voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.
It's a circuitous strategy born of necessity. Pelosi doesn't have votes for the Senate bill without the reconciliation package. But the Senate parliamentarian said that the Senate bill must be signed into law before the reconciliation package can be signed into law. That removed Pelosi's favored option of passing the reconciliation fixes before passing the Senate bill.
Is that what the parliamentarian ruled did? Gee, I thought he ruled that the Senate could not take up a reconciliation until the underlying bill was signed into law. By eerie coincidence, Klein reported the same thing on March 11, with a post headlined "Senate parliamentarian rules that bill must pass before reconciliation can be used".
If the Senate has to wait until Obama signs the Senate bill as passed in unamended form by the House before they can take up the reconciliation "fixes", then there is no way that Obama can have a joint signing ceremony where he signs both bills at once.
This next bit from Klein is utterly baffling:
So now the House will vote on reconciliation explicitly and the Senate bill implicitly, which is politically easier, even though the effect is not any different than if Congress were to pass the Senate bill first and pass the reconciliation fixes after.
The effect is not any different? Well just for starters, what does Obama sign? The House-passed bill of "Senate plus fixes" is not textually identical to the Senate-passed bill. Per that tedious Constitution (which, even if it is living and breathing, will have its last gasp this week if this strategy is upheld), the President needs to sign a bill passed by both houses - where is that bill?
Or are Pelosi and Klein arguing that the House will vote on a 'rule' under which two separate bills pass simultaneously, one then being sent to the President and the other to the Senate? Why even bother with that bizarre facade, then? Per the "enrolled bill" scenario described and considered by Jonathon Adler, if the House and Senate leadership deem a bill ready for presentation to the President, it is ready, regardless of what has transpired before. This point is back in the news today.
A point to ponder - critics have noted that employers may be reluctant to hire while their prospective liability under health care reform remains up in the air. If the House passes this bill by a method that is highly likely to end up in the courts and prolong the suspense as to the status of the health reform effort, will that be bad for jobs, jobs, jobs?