House Republican leaders used an arcane legislative maneuver to enforce Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s financial blueprint Tuesday, highlighting how quickly a procedure maligned when in the minority can become a useful tool when in control of the gavel — and vice versa.
Despite cries of hypocrisy from Democrats, Republicans used the self-executing rule — informally known as “deem and pass” — to tack the Wisconsin Republican’s budget onto an easily passable bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act.
The term might sound familiar. In the last Congress, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) considered using the procedure to pass the sweeping health care reform law.
Pelosi eventually decided against using the procedure, but not before Republicans cried foul, giving it nicknames such as “demon pass” and “scheme and plot.”
Pelosi also used the process in 2010 to deem budget numbers without actually passing a budget, a process to which Ryan and then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) objected. But on Tuesday, the nicknames came from the other side of the aisle.
Republicans’ “dream and pass,” according to a memo circulated by House Democratic leadership, is a sign that the GOP has forgotten its past convictions.
Gerrit Lansing, a spokesman for Ryan, said the procedure is different from the move Democrats discussed during the health care debate.
“The glaring difference is that we’re trying to do our jobs in the House of Representatives by giving an already-passed resolution the power to guide our work in the House — we’re not trying to circumvent democracy by passing a law this way, much less a takeover of 17 percent of the economy,” he said, referencing the health care law. “We’re trying to fix a sequester that everyone wants fixed and yet no one is willing to advance solutions for. When Democrats decide to take seriously our generation’s defining challenge, we’ll be glad to have them join the table of adults who are working to solve our debt crisis.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson told reporters earlier in the day that he thinks the procedure is being used to avoid another floor debate on unpopular legislation.
“They’re deeming it because they know that it can’t stand up to the scrutiny,” the Connecticut lawmaker said. “We’re making it known that this is not the right process, this is not fairness.”
In effect, however, the debate turned into another discussion on Ryan’s budget anyway, during which Pelosi and other Democrats accused Republicans of trying to “end the Medicare guarantee.”
Pelosi took to the House floor to accuse Republicans of “trying to fool the American people.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.