Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Re-deeming the Constitution

If it is constitutional, or perhaps I should say if no one with sufficient authority is willing to say that it is not constitutional to "deem" a bill to have passed without actually voting on it, it ought not to be. Hence I propose an amendment, to be added to Article I saying roughly: "No bill shall become law unless the exact same has been passed independently by each house of Congress and then signed by the President, or, failing his signature, being subsequently approved by 2/3 of each house."
Whoever introduced it could say, "it is unfortunate that the Democrats have resorted to Parliamentary casuistry to pass a bill without really passing it.  That should never happen again. This amendment is designed to do that," or words to that effect.

Categories > Congress

Discussions - 3 Comments

Even David Brooks is horrified, in yesterday's NYT, dialogue with Gail Collins:

Deem and pass? Are you kidding me? Is this what the Revolutionary War was fought for? Is this what the boys on Normandy beach were trying to defend? Is this where we thought we would end up when Obama was speaking so beautifully in Iowa or promising to put away childish things?

Yes, I know Republicans have used the deem and pass technique. It was terrible then. But those were smallish items. This is the largest piece of legislation in a generation and Pelosi wants to pass it without a vote. It’s unbelievable that people even talk about this with a straight face. Do they really think the American people are going to stand for this? Do they think it will really fool anybody if a Democratic House member goes back to his district and says, “I didn’t vote for the bill. I just voted for the amendments.” Do they think all of America is insane?

Your proposal would only beg the question, id est, what actually does "pass" mean, does it mean an actual vote on the merits of the legislation, or does it mean a vote on various procedural rules that can enable a piece of legislation to have been deemed as "pass[ed]" by the House or the Senate. To accomplish what you desire a greater specificity would not helpful.

The House has vast latitude in the formulation of their rules, but those rules cannot evade core Constitutional obligations. Foremost of which is the actual casting of votes, yeas and nays, on the various legislation that is proposed. A contrary intrepreation would strongly tend to erode the ability of the wider electorate to oversee the behavior of their elected officials. Abuse of such procedural and parliamentary devices would surely draw the entire idea of representative government into disrepute.

Moreover, did Republicans ever "deem" something as having passed that was in fact a "bill," or was it a "joint resolution." The process has been used before, to be sure. But what example can be tendered of the GOP using it to advance serious legislation, let alone something so incendiary as the legislation at bar?

As I suggested, the language might need to be improved. I would go further, and suggest there might even be a place for such resolutions, provided they are kept in their place. But if Congress is unable to keep the procedure in due bounds, it needs to be abolished.

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