Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Exchanging Scripts on Deem and Pass

So now we have a whole new example of the two parties exchanging scripts, this time on the “deem and pass” procedure. Republicans are suddenly up in arms at the thought of using the self-executing deem and pass rule to pass legislation, calling it unconstitutional and horribly unjust. Never mind that in 2005-2006, the last year the Republicans controlled Congress, they used that same procedure 35 times in that year alone.

And never mind that all their talk about demanding an up or down vote on the bill itself conflicts with the fact that if they would allow an up or down vote in the Senate, the House wouldn’t even need to be considering using this procedure in the first place. It’s precisely because they can’t get an up or down vote in the Senate at this point that they’re having to pass the Senate version of the bill in the House.

But the Republicans aren’t the only ones doing it, of course. The Democrats have complained in the past about Republicans using that same procedure and criticized them for it. Here’s Steny Hoyer in 2003:

When the Republican leadership reported a self-executing rule providing for the adoption of the $82 billion plan over 10 years and an almost trillion-dollar plan over 20 years, accelerating the increased child tax credit for low-income people families, we didn’t even get an opportunity to vote on the bill itself except by reference in a self-executing rule. What kind of lack of confidence does that display? What kind of process in pursuit of effectiveness does that mean that we are adopting? What kind of demeaning of democracy is the objective of efficiency resulting in?

Yes, it’s “demeaning of democracy” to do it – until we have to, of course.

Norman Ornstein points out that the Republicans actually went to court to defend the use of deem and pass — and won:

Any veteran observer of Congress is used to the rampant hypocrisy over the use of parliamentary procedures that shifts totally from one side to the other as a majority moves to minority status, and vice versa. But I can’t recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we are seeing now from congressional Republicans and their acolytes at the Wall Street Journal, and on blogs, talk radio, and cable news. It reached a ridiculous level of misinformation and disinformation over the use of reconciliation, and now threatens to top that level over the projected use of a self-executing rule by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules by either party–I prefer the “regular order”–so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so–is there no shame anymore?

No, there is no shame anymore. Both parties will use whatever argument they think is necessary to defend their objectives at any given time, even if it contradicts what they said before. And their followers will howl in outrage when the other party displays such hypocrisy and excuse away the same behavior in their own party. Welcome to sports fan politics.