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March 16, 2010

Everything You Didn't Want to Know About the Slaughter Solution

Folks are asking me what this Slaughter business is all about. First, a description of the process is in today's WaPo. They describe it as "procedural slight-of-hand."

Second, why it's unconstitutional, according to retired 10th Circuit judge Michael McConnell in yesterday's WSJ. (Click on either of the top two links to get past the Journal's subscriber wall.) The short version: the Constitution requires that both houses of Congress pass the exact same bill before it can become a law. Reconciliation is only used on laws. So, no matter how they do it, the House has to pass the Senate Bill before they can alter it via reconciliation.

There's more than a little chicanery to the Slaughter Solution. With one breath, Democrats are saying that it's constitutional and entirely business-as-usual because a vote for Slaughter is a vote for passage of the Senate bill, even as they simultaneously amend it. But then, in the very next breath, they claim that it will be easier for reluctant Democrats to vote for Slaughter than the "unpopular" Senate bill. Really:

"It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know," [Nancy 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."

Undecided Democrats appeared unconcerned by the flap. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), a retiring lawmaker who opposed the original House bill and is undecided on the new package, mocked Republican criticism of the process. Ultimately, he said, voters will hold lawmakers responsible for any changes in law.

"I don't think anybody's going to say that we didn't vote for the bill," he said.

Uh huh.

Here's the problem. If they vote for the Senate bill and simultaneously amend it via Slaughter, they will be sending to the Speaker two mutually-contradictory bills. One of which, having been passed by both houses, is constitutionally supposed to be presented to the President (the Senate bill) and one of which is constitutionally supposed to be sent to the Senate (the reconciliation sidecar).

That Democrats are openly referring to this as "sleight-of-hand", "cover-of-darkness" legislation should be having more impact, but after their Christmas Eve shenanigans they have exhausted most voters' capacity for outrage.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:39 AM

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