Despite Cooper's opposition, "deeming" or self executing rule still expected
WASHINGTON - Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) voted against using procedural maneuvering to pass health care reform today, voicing his opposition to the process that would allow reform to pass without separate, up or down votes on both the Senate and Reconciliation bills. Cooper, along with 27 other Democrats, voted with all 175 Republicans on this issue. 3 members from each party did not vote. He issued the following statement into the Congressional Record:
"Madam Speaker, I will vote against the Previous Question Motion today because I think the American people deserve a clear, up-or-down vote on health reform. They deserve to know how their elected representative voted, without any parliamentary confusion or obfuscation. In addition to being a transparency and fairness issue, this may also be a constitutional issue because of the consensus that the House and Senate must pass identical bills before they can be sent to the President for signature.
With all the publicity surrounding the so-called "self-executing" rule, this procedure will not fool anyone back home, nor should it. It is, however, apparently designed to fool enough members of the House into believing that they did not support the Senate bill, even though, if they support the health reform package, they voted for it as the major component of the health reform.
Unless we return to regular House procedure, we will never know how members would have voted on the Senate bill, by itself, and/or the reconciliation amendment, by itself. Since the President is apparently planning on signing the Senate bill before the Senate can take up the reconciliation amendment (as the Senate parliamentarian insists), no one will know who in the House of Representatives, in fact, supported the Senate bill. In simplistic terms, the White House will not know whom to invite to the signing ceremony.
All this might be a parliamentary dispute if the possibility did not exist that a constitutional challenge would be brought against health care reform legislation. All it would take is one or two federal judges to void this fundamental reform because of a procedural failing. Supporters of reform will then regret taking this procedural shortcut, while opponents will welcome the opportunity to overturn the law and reopen the debate.
I realize that both political parties have used self-executing rules dozens, even hundreds, of times. But, to my knowledge, these rules have never been used on an issue larger than banning smoking on airplanes, a $40 billion deficit-reduction measure, or raising the debt ceiling of the United States. None of these issues compares with the scope of health care reform. To my knowledge, no serious constitutional challenge has been mounted against these lesser uses of the rules, but one is certain to be lodged against the passage of health reform.
Voting is the most important part of our job. We must vote honestly and openly on the separate issues that come before us."
The final health care language was released today along with analysis from the independent Congressional Budget Office. Cooper is in the process of reviewing both documents, and will make a decision in the next few days.