Things got little interesting in the Senate earlier today when Senator Tom Coburn fired what can best be called a warning shot across Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bow.
Sen. Coburn refused to allow unanimous consent on Sen. Bernie Sander’s single payer amendment to the health care reform bill and demanded that they read entire bill be read into the record:
A Republican senator is forcing Senate clerks to read aloud a 767-page amendment to the Democrats’ health care overhaul bill that would establish a single-payer national health care system.
Typically, lawmakers allow the required reading of legislation on the Senate floor to be waived, but not this time.
A spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said Mr. Coburn objected to waiving the reading of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ amendment to educate the public.
“He believes a reading of the amendment would help the American people understand the competing approaches to reform,” said John Hart, a spokesman for Mr. Coburn. He hopes to “highlight the real debate, which is between government-run health care and patient-centered health care.”
Mr. Coburn, a physician who opposes the Democrats’ health bill, plans to require all 767 pages of the amendment to be read, which is expected to take 16 to 24 hours, Mr. Hart said.
Heh, it’s nice to see Republicans finally putting up a fight… Sen. Sanders’ amendment should been a non-event, no one expected it to go anywhere; especially since the public option and Medicare buy-in couldn’t get 60 votes. Instead it’s front page news because Tom Coburn had the courage to follow through on the threat he made last month.
The Democrats were able to convince Sen. Sanders to withdraw his amendment, but not until the Senate had been tied up in knots for about three hours.
Ed Morrissey sums things up pretty over at Hot Air:
What does this do? It makes a hash out of Harry Reid’s plan to move the bill through the Senate by Christmas. Twelve hours of floor time for just a single amendment means that no other business can be conducted until at least Friday. Coburn apparently launched this effort in response to an attempt by Reid to shove the bill to a cloture vote without giving everyone enough time to read the bill or peruse the CBO analysis, due this week.
It’s a reminder that even with a supermajority, Reid needs to work with the minority to keep momentum. He can’t pull a Nancy Pelosi jamdown in the upper chamber, and any further attempts will mean weeks of bill reading as the legislation effectively filibusters itself.
Bottom line, this bill is a train wreck and nobody likes it, Howard Dean says kill it and start over, the AFL-CIO and SEIU are reportedly calling emergency meetings and may withdraw support for the bill… The best thing for all concerned would be to kill this turd and start over with smaller more commonsense plan that will provide a safety net for the roughly 12 million Americans who want health insurance but can’t get it either because of cost or preexisting conditions.
No one is denying there are problems in our curent health care system, but the reality is the current system works reasonably well for the majority of Americans… Effectively blowing it up and replacing with system that will increase costs, limit choice and lead to rationing is the wrong way to go about reform.
Update: Did the Democrats break Senate rules in allowing Bernie Sanders to withdraw his amendment? It certainly looks like it:
The Senate Republican leadership believes that the parliamentarian allowed Democrats to violate the rules of the Senate by allowing Sen. Bernie Sanders to cut off the reading of his single-payer proposal.
When an amendment is introduced, it has to be read on the Senate floor unless the rest of the Senate agrees to cut off the reading, and typically, the requirement is waived through “unanimous consent.” Yet today, Sen. Tom Coburn insisted that Sanders’ 767 page bill be read on the Senate floor, which was on pace to take more than 12 hours.
But about three hours into the reading, Sanders withdrew his amendment, and this stopped the reading of the bill — even without unanimous consent.
It looks like Democrats are hell bent committing political suicide.