Oct. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Parliamentarian Stokes Republican Ire

Republicans accused Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin of being biased toward Democrats on Wednesday after he made a procedural ruling that allowed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to short-circuit GOP efforts to derail his health care overhaul legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of “somehow [convincing] the Parliamentarian to break with the long-standing precedent and practice of the Senate in the reading of the bill,” saying it proved Democrats will resort to any means necessary to pass the bill.

“It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2,000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game,” McConnell said.

Other Republicans laid the blame squarely at Frumin’s feet. “I think the Parliamentarian was clearly biased in doing this,” Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint (S.C.) said following Frumin’s ruling that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could withdraw his 767-page amendment — after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had forced the chamber’s clerks to read it aloud, a process that was expected to take up to 12 hours.

The Parliamentarian’s office did not return a call for comment.

After Coburn objected to a unanimous consent order to waive the reading of Sanders’s amendment ­— a proposal to replace the health care bill with a single-payer, government-run system — the clerks began reading the entire measure, halting any further progress on Reid’s health care bill.

After nearly three hours, Sanders withdrew his amendment, the reading ceased, and Republicans cried foul.

Republicans accused Frumin of creating a new precedent in ruling that Sanders could withdraw since the Standing Rules of the United States Senate appears to say that only a request to waive a reading can actually interrupt the reading process.

“I’m surprised the Parliamentarian did this. If they were going to do this, they had an obligation to tell us” of the rule change, Coburn argued. “How do you navigate if you don’t have a map you can depend on?” Coburn asked. The Oklahoma Senator complained that Democrats “no longer have an umpire calling balls and strikes. This is now having a teammate calling the strikes and balls for you.”

Republicans argued the controversial ruling, as well as a decision by Democrats to then table an amendment offered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) without first letting her address the chamber, are an indication of how partisan the Senate has become — and warned it could have lasting effects.

“Members of our side are very troubled. ... If we’re going to get down to a close battle and the rules are going to be changed, this will adversely affect the chamber,” Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said.

According to Democrats and Republicans, Frumin’s decision appears to turn on an obscure 1992 motion to withdraw an amendment that was being read.

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