Video: O'Donnell: House is making its own rules

updated 3/16/2010 5:20:52 PM ET 2010-03-16T21:20:52

It is a brazen abuse of Congress' rules. Or a legitimate tactic used many times by both parties.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply divergent views about the method being contemplated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a final vote on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul perhaps this week.

Using rhetoric reminiscent of the tea party movement, the GOP says Democrats are flagrantly ignoring the will of the American people by trying to pass the legislation to reshape the U.S. health care system without a direct House vote on the bill approved by the Senate in December.

Democrats responded Tuesday that the moves they are contemplating have been used by both parties numerous times to pass legislation such as huge increases in the government's ability to borrow money, restrictions on immigrant workers and creation of a presidential line-item veto, which was later ruled unconstitutional.

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The attacks by GOP leaders underscore an offensive by Republicans hoping to either derail Obama's top legislative priority by scaring off wavering Democratic lawmakers, or to bank arguments they can employ against Democratic candidates in this fall's congressional campaigns.

Top House Democrats are hunting votes so the chamber can finally send Obama the 10-year, nearly $1 trillion health care bill the Senate approved on Christmas Eve. Democrats also want to send him a smaller, second bill changing the overhaul legislation, such as easing a new tax on high-priced health insurance policies and killing extra Medicaid payments to Nebraska that have become a symbol of Washington's backroom dealmaking.

House Democrats worry that a direct vote on the broad Senate bill would prove unpopular among voters. To try easing the political pain, House leaders are considering a process in which the same House vote approving the rules for debating the smaller fix-it bill would automatically send the huge Senate-approved measure to Obama.

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Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed to give Republicans an easy target when she told liberal bloggers Monday that she liked the idea "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Democratic effort to avoid a direct House vote on the health overhaul bill was "the ultimate in Washington power grabs, a legislative ploy that lets Democrats defy the will of the American people."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, accused Pelosi of seeking "an immaculate conception" that would make it appear they hadn't actually voted on the health bill.

The effort to avoid a clean House vote on the Senate-passed bill was defended Tuesday by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Slaughter chairs the House Rules Committee, which following leadership direction would approve the debate rules including the language "deeming" the House to have passed the Senate-approved bill.

Playing off her colorful-sounding name, Republicans have labeled the procedure "the Slaughter solution."

Hoping to capitalize on what they see as a political opening, Boehner said Tuesday he would ask the House to vote on requiring the chamber to vote directly on the Senate-passed health legislation.

"They need to listen to the American people and follow the law," said Amy Kremer, a leader of the Tea Party Express, which held a small demonstration near the Capitol on Tuesday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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