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Senate Republicans may not have the physical numbers to filibuster the Democrats health care reform bill, but they have wasted little time in using the Senates rules to their utmost advantage in their quest to trip up consideration of the measure.
In their first shot at the measure this week, Republicans decided to try to strike at the heart of how Democrats plan to pay for the $848 billion measure by attempting to eliminate the proposals almost $440 billion in Medicare cuts.
But instead of offering a conventional amendment, they decided to use an esoteric procedural tactic that would send the bill back to committee with instructions to eliminate the cuts. If successful, the GOPs gambit would force Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to use time-consuming procedures and hold another filibuster-killing vote on whether to restart debate on the bill.
Republicans said they are likely to use the procedural tactic repeatedly during debate this month as they seek to make the point that the Senate should go back to the drawing board on the health care bill. But Democrats said the strategy is just another way Republicans are attempting to delay the measure.
Rather than kill the whole bill, just send it back to [committee] and tell them to eliminate these cuts and send it back to us, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who offered the Medicare motion to commit.
He said he decided against using a traditional amendment strategy on the Medicare issue because, We want to start over, you know?
McCain said he was operating at the request of Senate GOP leaders, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say how often Republicans might use the procedural tactic.
You know Im not going to answer the question of what comes next, McConnell said. The American people expect us to try to stop this bill and to start over with something more acceptable to them.
GOP aides said the tactic would certainly be used again, but they declined to detail which issues Republicans would employ it on. However, aides said Medicare certainly would be a recurring theme on the floor for Republicans.
Democrats charged that Republicans are trying to kill the bill with Senate procedures.
If we take this bill off the floor, which many Republicans want us to do, it will take us days, maybe a week to bring it back to the floor, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on the floor Tuesday. They want to delay this as long as possible. They want us to fail. They want us to stop.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said the maneuvering proved that Republicans are not serious about health reform.
If they had a genuine policy proposal to improve the bills Medicare provisions, they would have drafted their ideas as an amendment to the bill, the aide said. But they didnt offer any proposal for how they would address those important issues. This decision to offer no substantive amendments and instead use procedural motions to kill the bill is merely a cynical ploy by a party that is bankrupt of ideas.