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Which Option Will House Democrats Use to Pass Health Reform Bill?

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, March 17, 2010

The new phrase being heard in the House this week is "deem and pass"—a process that would let the Senate healthcare reform bill go through the House—without members actually voting on the measure itself.

The "deem and pass" process instead would let the House vote on a package of changes to the Senate bill, which would approve the provisions in the bill without officially passing the bill.

Whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will proceed with "deem and pass" remains to be seen, but the GOP has spoken out against the option.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) called it a "controversial trick" that would prevent members from voting on the bill. "There is no way to hide from this vote. It will be the biggest vote that most members ever cast," he said. "You can run but you can't hide."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said "deem and pass" is a move for House Democrat to "to keep their fingerprints off a bill." In addition, he said: "Anybody who thinks this is a good strategy isn't thinking clearly. They're too close to the situation. They don't realize that this strategy is the only thing that they or this Congress will be remembered for."

Pelosi, following a meeting with senior advocate representatives on Tuesday afternoon, said she has not made a decision on which way the House may opt to vote on reform legislation. "[We] have several options available to us. And we've asked the Parliamentarian and the Rules Committee to tell us what our options are and they've given us some."

Pelosi added that she is waiting to hear the Congressional Budget Office's reform bill estimates before deciding when to vote, which could be by the end of the week at the earliest.

"I didn't hear any of that ferocity when hundreds of times, the Republicans used these methods when they were in power. This is part [of] maybe 25% what they did," she said, commenting on the GOP reaction.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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