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Health care stealth move to backfire

By Erick Erickson, CNN Contributor
  • Erick Erickson: House Democrats to use "self-executing" rule to pass Senate health bill
  • Erickson: GOP has used same tactic, but never to pass a bill of this magnitude
  • He says Democrats and many Republicans aren't aware of level of anger at Washington
  • Democrats need to pass a health plan, but it will mean huge GOP gains in November

Editor's note: Erick Erickson is the editor of the conservative blog and a CNN political contributor.

(CNN) -- The House of Representatives intends to take a somewhat novel approach to passing the health care bill.

With Democratic members not wanting to vote for the Senate version of the Democrats' health care plan, they will instead vote on a "self-executing rule" that deems the Senate bill passed, and vote separately on a reconciliation measure. Republicans are calling this the "Slaughter solution," named after Rep. Louise Slaughter, who proposed it.

Either the Democrats are voting for the Senate plan or they are not. Constitutionally, if they are not voting for the Senate plan, there is no way it can become law. The trick may be too clever by half. Only a few months after lots of high dudgeon over the constitutional rights and Mirandizing of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day "panty bomber," the Democrats' clever gambit to pass the Senate plan without voting for it raises questions about their fidelity to constitutional process.

Some Democrats are even attacking the process. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, in a contested primary with a darling of the online left, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, is campaigning against the Slaughter solution and boxing Halter into a corner.

Although Democrats have noted successful Republican attempts to deem other legislation adopted, no one has been able to point out a matter of legislation of this magnitude being passed. In fact, those other attempts were largely related to debt ceiling increases and passed with bipartisan support.

Reports say that the leading House Democrats cannot agree on whether their health care plan will pass before Easter. The speaker says yes, firmly; most everyone else is wavering. House Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina is talking about waiting until after Easter.

What the Democrats and even many Republicans do not realize is the level of intense anger at Washington that this situation exacerbates. The magnitude of anger among independents -- forget about conservatives -- is staggering. Congressmen confronted by angry hordes of independent voters are going to think twice about passing the Democrats' health care plan through the Slaughter solution. That will leave them in an awkward position of voting for the Senate plan, complete with the "Cornhusker kickback" and other notorious earmarks, or not passing the plan at all.

The schadenfreude among Republicans is immense.

If the Democrats go home for Easter vacation without having passed their health care plan, there will be a Resurrection Sunday, but not for health care. If, however, they pass their health care plan using the Slaughter solution before going home, the Democrats are going to find a level of active anger not seen in this country in a very long time.

Their desire to pass a health care plan has made for terrible politics and will lead to massive Republican gains in November. The dirty little secret, though, is that the Democrats have zero choice and must pass health care.

Labor unions, activists and others spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get a unified Democratic Party-controlled government. That control has resulted in little change in George W. Bush's security policies, a still- open Guantanamo Bay, no cap-and-trade legislation, no "employee free choice" legislation, and not much of anything else on the list of must-have items. If the Democrats cannot pass their health care legislation, the left will seriously question the return on their investment.

Democratic politicians are telling themselves and others that passing health care will embolden Democrats to turn out in November. What they really mean is that passing health care will stop a breakup of the Democratic coalition. They will still lose in November, but at least they won't have to deal with a party breakup at the same time. And to think only two years ago everyone was talking about a permanent Democratic majority.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Erick Erickson.