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Hoyer: Process Is Interesting To Us, Not Americans

The debate on Capitol Hill now is whether or not there will be an up-or-down vote on health care reform in the House if Democrats go forward with the "Slaughter Solution" -- whereby there will only be one roll call vote on a bill that fixes unsavory parts of the Senate bill and thereby automatically approves the Senate bill.

Republicans continue to push the message that this will remove any accountability for the bill, allowing House Democrats to tell voters they never voted for the unpopular Senate bill.

On the House floor today, Minority Whip Eric Cantor called for an up-or-down vote, and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence said the proposed process showed Democrats are "willing to trample on the traditional rules of the House and Senate and even trample on the Constitution of the United States" to pass health care reform.

Minority Leader John Boehner announced this afternoon he would introduce a resolution that would force an up-or-down vote on the actual Senate bill.

Democrats argue that the legislative maneuver they are considering was used countless times by Republicans when they were in the majority -- including on a massive lobbying and ethics reform package in 2006 -- and that there is no hiding the fact that the vote on the accompanying reconciliation bill will lead to the passage of health care reform.

"Frankly, what we want to do is do the Senate bill as amended by reconciliation," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today. "If we pursue this process, it is consistent with the rules, it is consistent with former practice, and in my opinion will be consistent with having members express themselves on the Senate bill as amended by reconciliation."

"We will vote on it in one form or another," he added.

Republicans are highlighting the process of passing health care reform as they go district-by-district warning vulnerable House Democrats that their vote could be fatal to their political future. The National Republican Congressional Committee just launched the latest in a string of TV ads in Democratic districts. This one is airing in the Cincinnati-based district of freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus, who unseated Republican Steve Chabot in 2008 and will face the former congressman again in November.

That effort could be having an effect on Democrats getting the necessary 216 votes to pass reform, as Majority Whip James Clyburn says he still does not have enough vote commitments from his members.

Hoyer argues that while Republicans "have done everything in their power to undermine" the ability of Congress to move reform through both chambers of Congress, process is not what Americans are focused on. Republicans lost power in 2006 "because of substance," not process, he said.

"I don't think any American...is going to make the distinction," said Hoyer, adding that both parties have used this process and that few voters care that Republicans actually used it more often than Democrats. "Process is interesting, particularly to all of us around this room. But in the final analysis, what is interesting to the American public is what does this bill do for them and their families."

The House Budget Committee marked up and voted on the reconciliation bill yesterday, and Democratic leaders are still waiting for scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, which will tell them how much the bill will cost. Hoyer said he expects the bill will come up later this week.