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The House Health-Care Vote and the Constitution

Citation

Publication Date: 
March 15, 2010
Format: 
Op-Ed or News Article
Bibliography: Michael McConnell, The House Health-Care Vote and the Constitution, The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2010.

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No bill can become law unless the exact same text is approved by a majority of both houses of Congress.

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Democratic congressional leaders have floated a plan to enact health-care reform by a procedure dubbed "the Slaughter solution." It is named not for the political carnage that it might inflict on their members, but for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.), chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, who proposed it. Under her proposal, Democrats would pass a rule that deems the Senate's health-care bill to have passed the House, without the House actually voting on the bill. This would enable Congress to vote on legislation that fixes flaws in the Senate health-care bill without facing a Senate filibuster, and without requiring House members to vote in favor of a Senate bill that is now politically toxic.

The Slaughter solution cannot be squared with Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.

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... It may be clever, but it is not constitutional. To become law—hence eligible for amendment via reconciliation—the Senate health-care bill must actually be signed into law. The Constitution speaks directly to how that is done. According to Article I, Section 7, in order for a "Bill" to "become a Law," it "shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate" and be "presented to the President of the United States" for signature or veto. Unless a bill actually has "passed" both Houses, it cannot be presented to the president and cannot become a law.