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Mar. 16 2010 - 11:56 am | 983 views | 2 recommendations | 19 comments

Michele Bachmann calls on followers to ignore the law – again

{{w|Michele Bachmann}}, official portrait

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Speaking at a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol, Michele ‘Mama Che’ Bachmann complained about the route the House might take in the drive to pass health care. Once again, the Minnesota Member of Congress called upon her followers to ignore the law. Why? Because she doesn’t like it. Bachmann’s problem is the House procedure called the ’self-executing rule’ – now nicknamed “the Slaughter Rule”. It is a procedure that has been in existence in the House since the 1970’s and allows the House to ‘bury’ an unpopular bill inside a new bill.  In the matter of the health care reform package, using the rule would allow the House to ‘package’ the Senate passed bill into a new bill that also includes the fixes set to go to the Senate for a reconciliation vote. Passage of this all-in-one bill would result in the House passing the Senate bill while sparing House Democrats having to actually vote for the Senate package which they do not really like. I don’t like this. While the procedure has been used for years, I don’t know that it has ever been used for a piece of legislation of such importance. Further, the only reason for using the rule is to allow House Democrats to hide from having to vote for something they think can hurt them politically. But you should not be fooled by the outrage coming from conservative politicians and commentators. Not only have House Republicans accepted the self-executing rule in the past, Don Wolfensberger, former chief of staff for the House Rules Committee under the Republicans, notes:

When Republicans took power in 1995, they soon lost their aversion to self-executing rules and proceeded to set new records under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). There were 38 and 52 self-executing rules in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995-1998), making up 25 percent and 35 percent of all rules, respectively. Under Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) there were 40, 42 and 30 self-executing rules in the 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses (22 percent, 37 percent and 22 percent, respectively). Thus far in the 109th Congress, self-executing rules make up about 16 percent of all rules. Via Media Matters

While I may not like the use of “The Slaughter Rule” to pass health care reform, one would be hard pressed to make an out-of- hand argument that the rule is unconstitutional. Indeed, such a conclusion is unlikely given that Congress has the right to make their own rules. Nevertheless, even if it were to turn out to be otherwise, it is a matter for the Courts to decide – not Michele Bachmann. But Michele Bachmann has never let the law get in the way of her never ending B.S. In declaring the use of the self-executing rule  to be ‘taxation without representation‘, Bachmann told her followers –

If they pass the bill legitimately, then yes, we have to follow the law — until we repeal it. But if they pass it illegitimately, then the bill is illegitimate, and we don’t have to lay down for this. It’s not difficult to figure out. So if for some reason they’re able to get their votes this week and pass this 2,700-page Senate bill — if they get it, trillions of dollars is what it’s gonna cost, when we didn’t vote on it, we need to tell them a message: That if they get away with this, they will be able to get away with anything — with anything. And you can’t say you voted on a bill when you didn’t, because it’s fraud. But we are not helpless here. We are not helpless, there are things that we can do. Via Talking Points Memo

This is not the first time Bachmann has called for Americans to disobey the law – or worse.  You may recall her appearance on a Minnesota radio station where she implored her listeners to get  “armed and dangerous” . Bachmann followed that up with an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio program where she inciting listeners to revoltion. You can read all about this in my earlier piece entitled “Michele Mama Che Bachmann Officially Insane”. At that time, I suggested that Bachmann had violated 5 USC Sec. 7313 and deserved to be investigated by the Department of Justice. I have little doubt that Bachmann’s insistence that her followers disobey yet another law, should it become one, will result in yet another violation of federal law. Bachmann continues –

We aren’t gonna play their game, we’re not gonna pay their taxes. They want us to pay for this? Because we don’t have to. We don’t have to. We don’t have to follow a bill that isn’t law. That’s not the American way, and that’s not what we’re going to do.

Apparently, if Bachmann says it’s not a law – that should be good enough for the rest of us. I mean, who has time for the Supreme Court to register an opinion and why should they bother? Bachmann has spoken! There’s more.

Because it’s one-party rule now in Washington, D.C. Their Chicago tactics, their Chicago friends, twisting Democrats’ arms, threatening their own team members with ethics charges and a submission. This handful of people thinks they can enforce their will on 300 million Americans? They’re not gonna do that. This is dictatorial, what they are doing. We are not compelled to follow a non-law just because Obama and Pelosi tells us we have to.

Is it just me or is this precisely the kind of behavior the Founders had in mind when they defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the standard for bouncing a Member of Congress out of their job? As much as I enjoy chronicling the follies of Michele Bachmann, the woman has repeatedly violated her oath of office and shown complete disrespect for the laws she is sworn to uphold and defend – which includes the laws she doesn’t like. When is someone going to show the courage to stand up to Rep. Bachmann and defend the sanctity of law and the legitimacy of the United States? I don’t care what party she belongs to, what she believes and who she thinks she is pleasing. We do not elect people to Congress as a platform to incite Americans to revolution and to disobey the laws of the land. If a revolution is what Michele Bachmann wants she should put her money  -and her ample Congressional perks and benefits – where her large and obnoxious mouth currently reside. You say you want a revolution Michele? Fine. Go for it. But stop requiring me to cover your paycheck and pay for your perks, including your health insurance coverage, while you incite your all too ready group of fanboys to start shooting at me. If you want to be an enemy of the U.S. government, the least you can do is do it on your own dime.

UPDATE: It turns out that the Slaughter Rule has been tested in court. In 2007, Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen organization brought the matter before the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, challenging the lower court’s holding that the rule was, indeed, Constitutional. Nader lost again in the Court of Appeals. Guess who filed a brief in support of Nader’s action to have the rule deemed unconstitutional? Nancy Pelosi.

While the hypocrisy is obvious, what must be noted is (a) Pelosi went to court – not to the streets encouraging her supporters to ignore the law, and (b) the court did, in fact, rule that the Slaughter Rule was constitutional, making Bachmann’s behavior all the more offensive.


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  1. collapse expand

    I am kind of in support of Bachman on this one.

    “we’re not gonna pay their taxes.” I, for one, think this is a fabulous idea. She shouldn’t. Then she should be prosecuted and thrown in jail.

    But seriously, why is the Republican party becomming so stupid? Obama and the Democrats won an election. How is that dictatorial? Furthermore, the people that typically get jacked in a revolution are the rulers. That would be Congress. Why call for a revolution if you are in Congress? Do you not know that you are the first to go? Idiots.

  2. collapse expand

    It’s breathtaking that a member of congress should be allowed to openly advocate breaking the law. I hope it’s met with the same scorn as the Keep America Safe ad. This is face of the Republican Party? Please.

    Also, I wish I could remember where I read that Backman, or Backman’s family, receives hindreds of thousands in farm subsidies. If she’s not willing to pay her taxes, that’s great. The rest of us should stop paying for her subsidy.

  3. collapse expand

    Rick, listen to/watch the CSPAN feed of today’s House of Reps. House republicans are ‘deeming’ back the balance of their time today after they are done bad-mouthing (and lying about) the health care bill. It’s high comedy.

    All of them are screaming about wanting to bring the bill to a vote instead of using a procedural move. Is this a trick by Pelosi to get the Repubs. to insist on a vote so they don’t keep stalling one?
    (Duck Season! Wabbit Season!)

    I’m holding out little hope that they’ll throw the Public Option back into the bill.

  4. collapse expand

    Not that I condone her excessive behavior, but I’m finding this no different than Pelosi’s behavior in 2005. These two women are simply the extremes of the two parties that should probably not be politicians. And be listened to with a very fine gain of salt.


    • collapse expand

      I think there is a big difference.
      Yes, it is of course interesting to note that Pelosi supported a constitutional challenge to a rule that she now seeks to use to pass a huge piece of social legislation.

      But the point is – she went to court! She did not tell anyone who would listen to simply ignore the law of the land because she believes that it was unconstitutional. She went to court to get a court of law to say it was unconstitutional – and not for nothing, she lost!

      Going to court is the way it is supposed to be done. If Bachmann wants to challenge the law, should it pass, I’m all for it. But telling her listeners to ignore the law is not what a Member of Congress is supposed to do and it’s just plain wrong.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    I read, can’t remember where, but these rules are older than the 1970s. I found this: http://www.rules.house.gov/Archives/98-710.pdf which is a two page description of how the rule has been used traditionally and more contemporary uses.

    I’ll try to dig up the article where it seems to have been used during FDR. When I find it, I’ll post a link.


  6. collapse expand

    Given how disappointed I am in Speaker Pelosi’s record so far, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending her. I don’t think there is any hypocrisy to be found in her use of the self-executing rule. She believed the rule to be unconstitutional. The court told her otherwise. The court made clear the rule is a legitimate and available legislative tool. She followed the proper procedure and is now free to use a perfectly legal and legitimate tool at her disposal. She didn’t disavow the rule as some moral evil that should never see the light of day. She viewed as an improper procedure and was told otherwise.

    I am not fond of open-book tests, as I find they don’t well test what one’s learned, but what one can look up. However, on Friday I will take one and, I assure you, I will open a book if I think doing so will improve my grade. That isn’t hypocrisy, but practicality. The teacher set the terms of the test, not me. The Speaker and I must operate in the world in which we find ourselves, not the world we’d like.

    If I may suggest, a good contemporaneous example of hypocrisy is State Senator Roy Ashburn from my own state of California. He has voted against every gay equality measure that ever went before him, as well as supporting Prop, 8, yet was arrested for drunk driving after leaving a local gay bar with a cute young male in his car. He has now come out with little apology to those he’s hurt over the years with his reprehensible voting record.

  7. collapse expand

    This is what ABC called the “Deem it rule”, it is getting too confusing, but that is what the special interest groups want I suppose. I am not a genius or a dummy, but I just don’t know what to tell old Ma when she keeps saying “my prescriptions will go up!”, it is hard to keep a handle on all this, but I do know every President since at least Clinton has talked about it in campaigns, and now even he is against it on the ABC news page. I have a feeling this is going to pass.

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    About Me

    I am an attorney in Southern California, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. To that end, I am active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Based in beautiful Santa Monica, California, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be a contributing editor to True/Slant. I've recently finished a book designed to make the health care debate understandable to the average reader, and expect it to be out in the next five months or earlier. In my 'spare time', I continue to write for television and, occasionally, for comic books.

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