“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.”

Steve Watson
Thursday, March 18th, 2010

In a combative interview with Fox News presenter Bret Baier last night, Barack Obama said he is not worried about House Democrats’ plan to pass the health care reform bill without a traditional vote, indicating that the process is not important.

“Do you support the use of this Slaughter rule? The deem and pass rule, so that Democrats avoid a straight up or down vote on the Senate bill?” Baier asked the president.

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.” Obama replied after extolling the virtues of his health care proposal.

“Washington gets very concerned about these procedural issues in Congress.” Obama added.

“This is always an issue that’s — whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats in charge — when Republicans are in charge, Democrats constantly complain that the majority was not giving them an opportunity, et cetera.” the president said.

Earlier this week, speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that she might attempt to pass the Senate health-care bill without having members vote on it, by way of “self-executing rule”.

The move would allow Democrats to vote to strip out controversial portions of the Senate bill and then “deem” that the entire package has passed without a second, direct vote.

“It’s more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know,” Pelosi said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday. “But I like it,” she said, “because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”

Pelosi indicated that more reform will follow “Once we kick through this door”.

Those comments have caused uproar as the week has unfolded, yet the president said nothing last night to discourage the use of the deem and pass rule.

Pelosi’s plan has been denounced as unconstitutional, with The Wall Street Journal for one, noting that the “deeming” procedure is unprecedented, since Congress has never before passed a comprehensive reform bill using the method.

The Constitution itself states, “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.”

Legal scholars have also pointed to a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that the two houses of Congress must approve “precisely the same text” before any bill can become a law.

The idea that the reform bill would be forced through in such a way has in part prompted the State of Idaho to pass a measure requiring the state attorney general to sue the federal government if residents are forced to buy health insurance.

Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states, with Virginia already confirming it will follow suit.

Even one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s floor whips, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, has said that the parliamentary move would be “disingenuous” and harm the credibility of Congress.

When pressed further by Baier last night, the president refused to be drawn on the issue:
OBAMA: The key is to make sure that we vote — we have a vote on whether or not we’re going to maintain the status quo, or whether we’re going to reform the system.

BAIER: So you support the deem and pass rule?

OBAMA: I am not —

BAIER: You’re saying that’s that vote.

OBAMA: What I’m saying is whatever they end up voting on — and I hope it’s going to be sometime this week — that it is going to be a vote for or against my health care proposal. That’s what matters. That’s what ultimately people are going to judge this on.
“The reason that I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating is because the focus entirely is on Washington process. And yes, I have said that is an ugly process. It was ugly when Republicans were in charge, it was ugly were in Democrats were in charge.” Obama also stated.

Watch the interview: