Commentary: Watching the missteps towards health care reform

This country needs health care reform. Medical coverage must be extended to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it. But the details matter, and so does the way Congress makes the key decisions.

It's a bad sign that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is talking about using a procedural gimmick that would let House Democrats vote to pass a bill while pretending that they didn't vote to pass it.

The scheme arises from the fact that Democrats in the House and Senate weren't able to agree on the particulars of a reform package while the Democrats still held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Now the House must approve the Senate bill in its entirety in order to fast-track the issue to "reconciliation," a process the Democrats want to use to produce a compromise bill not subject to filibuster.

Since so many Democrats don't want their fingerprints on the Senate bill, Pelosi says she may smuggle it (our words, not hers) through a floor vote with a measure stating that it is "deemed" to have passed. The word — normally used more honestly — would presumably let lawmakers claim that deeming isn't approving and they aren't necessarily the ones who did the deeming.

Pelosi, at least, is honest about the subterfuge: She's inclined toward using the deeming maneuver on the Senate package because there are "a lot of people who don't want to vote for it."

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