The latest health care scuffle on Capitol Hill is the possible scenario under which the House wouldn't actually vote up-or-down on the Senate bill. Instead, it would instead pass a bill to fix provisions it doesn't like in the Senate bill, after using a legislative maneuver "deeming" that it passed the underlying bill.
That would ensure approval while allowing Democrats running scared in the November elections to avoid a troublesome vote. But Republicans are screaming bloody murder.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the hot seat to keep health care reform alive, is at least tacitly acknowledging that she doesn't have the 216 votes to pass the Senate bill, which is opposed by liberals because it doesn't have a public option and by anti-abortion lawmakers because of less restrictive provisions.
"We will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill to improve quality, lower cost, and make America healthier," she told reporters today.
Representative Tom McClintock of Elk Grove is among the Republicans accusing Pelosi and other Democratic leaders of an abuse of power.
"My constituents have read the Constitution, including the provision that requires both houses to vote on a bill before it can become a law," he said on the House floor today, adding that "if the Democrat majority attempts to impose this law without a direct vote, two things will be obvious to every American.
"First, that the Democrats are ashamed to cast the very 'up-or-down' vote on the health care takeover that the President promised as recently as yesterday. And far more disturbing, that the Congress has now placed itself above the Constitution.
Pelosi bristled at such criticism, and her office released a "fact sheet" asserting that Republicans and Democrats alike had used the parliamentary tool many times.
Asked about the "ferocity" of GOP attacks, she replied, "I didn't hear any of that ferocity when hundreds of times, the Republicans used these methods when they were in power."
She went on to say that Republicans want to focus on process, not substance. "If you want to talk about process, let's talk about the process that the insurance companies use when they say to you: 'You become sick, your insurance is cancelled.' When they say to you: 'You're on the way to an operation but your insurance is rescinded because we just feel like it and we can do it, so we will.' Or what they say when they say to somebody that: 'You have a pre-existing condition and so you cannot have health insurance.' Let's talk about that process. If you want to have some outrage about process, let's apply it to the insurance companies."