The Corner

Re: The Slaughter Solution

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more constitutional outcry over the so-called “Slaughter Solution.” As the Washington Examiner describes the proposal: 

Each bill that comes before the House for a vote on final passage must be given a rule that determines things like whether the minority would be able to offer amendments to it from the floor.  In the Slaughter Solution, the rule would declare that the House “deems” the Senate version of Obamacare to have been passed by the House. House members would still have to vote on whether to accept the rule, but they would then be able to say they only voted for a rule, not for the bill itself.

The question here is whether the House can “deem” a bill to be passed without voting directly on it — that is, without actually passing it. I think not.

Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States” (emphasis added).

It seems that voting on a rule that deems a bill to be passed differs importantly from actually passing a bill. The difference is not just formalistic but deeply functional. A core purpose of the constitutional legislative process is to ensure that lawmakers are held accountable to the public. Their legislative voting record has to be clear, so that the electorate can make an informed decision on whether to reelect them. The Slaughter Solution is a piece of subterfuge designed specifically to short-circuit this purpose of electoral accountability, so that congressmen can “say they only voted for a rule, not for the bill itself.” The very attractiveness of the maneuver shows that it plays some role in insulating lawmakers from popular disapproval of their vote, and for that reason it is constitutionally noxious.

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