THE BLOG
05/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nancy Pelosi: "Originalist" and "Strict Constructionist"

Turns out the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, might just be an "originalist" and a "strict constructionist." Is that a problem?

What part of Article I Section V of the U.S. Constitution don't the Republicans understand? That's the big question as the GOP desperately convulses at the prospect of the House of Representatives sending the healthcare reform bill to the President's desk using the "Deem and Pass" rule.

Here is exactly what the Constitution says about that: "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings..." How big do the letters have to be before the Republicans can read this? But then, of course they can read it, and they do understand it. How do we know that? Because the Republican House of Representatives used the very same "Deem and Pass" rule 35 times in 2005-2006. Yes, that's right, not once or twice -- 35 times.

The fight then was taken all the way to the Supreme Court where -- you guessed it -- the Republican House leadership won the case! And they should have. Just read Article I, Section V again. How could anyone not understand its meaning? "Deem and Pass" is not some new concoction designed by left-wing radicals in the Obama White House or San Francisco Democrats. The "Deem and Pass" rule is 77 years old. It's survived 8 different presidents, more than half of them Republicans. Where, one might reasonably ask, was the Republican outrage over these last 8 decades?

So, if this House prepares a list of "fixes" to the Senate healthcare bill and passes those changes under the "Deem and Pass" rule, it will be as if the Senate healthcare bill has passed along with the proposed changes. Using this procedure, the Congress may send a final bill to the President for signature into law. Democrats hope that would be immediately followed by the Senate enacting the House "fixes" using their Reconciliation rule -- also covered quite succinctly by the Constitution in Article I Section V. Remember, that provision refers to "Each House." Both the House of Representatives and the Senate, in determining their own procedural rules, would be acting in strict accordance with the originalist meaning of the Constitution.

I thought Republicans liked that. Where's the problem?