ANALYSIS — Earlier this month, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee voiced his party’s objection to a rule that would send a debt limit increase to President Joe Biden’s desk without further debate or floor votes:
“Today’s rule goes beyond the pale that once again protects Democratic members from actually having to vote on anything. Sadly, this has become all too common an occurrence under the Democratic majority,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said.
So what really happens when a bill gets the so-called deem-and-pass treatment? Essentially, it’s a tactic used by the majority party in the Rules Committee that allows for legislation to be considered cleared for the president’s desk — free from further amendments or recorded votes — with the adoption of a rule.
And because the majority party holds all the power on the Rules panel, it’s as simple as adding that language and sending the rule off to the House floor.
“Rules of this sort contain customary, or ‘boilerplate,’ language, such as: ‘The amendment printed in [section 2 of this resolution or in part 1 of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution] shall be considered as adopted in the House and in the Committee of the Whole,’” according to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report.
The reality is both parties have regularly used this procedural tactic to advance pieces of legislation since 1933. In 2012, a Republican-led House deemed their budget passed in order to proceed to the fiscal 2013 appropriations process.
And in 2010, deem-and-pass was famously raised as a potential way to push through parts of President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul. Democrats eventually dropped the idea in the face of Republican protests that it be used on something so substantial and contested.
The debt limit increase, which until recently was a routine bipartisan action, is one of the most common pieces of policy to hitch a ride to passage this way.
It has been used over the years by both parties to raise the debt ceiling. This includes ten occasions between 1980 and 2010, where it served as the key mechanism behind what is commonly known as the Gephardt Rule, named for the former Democratic lawmaker, which allows for a debt limit increase with the adoption of the annual budget resolution.
This practice is in line, then, with the traditional use of a maneuver first introduced March 16, 1933 — twelve days into Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency — to raise the debt limit.