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.
Its 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 Frumins feet. I think the Parliamentarian was clearly biased in doing this, Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint (S.C.) said following Frumins ruling that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could withdraw his 767-page amendment after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had forced the chambers clerks to read it aloud, a process that was expected to take up to 12 hours.
The Parliamentarians office did not return a call for comment.
After Coburn objected to a unanimous consent order to waive the reading of Sanderss 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 Reids 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.
Im 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 dont 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 were 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, Frumins decision appears to turn on an obscure 1992 motion to withdraw an amendment that was being read.
That would appear to contradict the chambers rules. According to Riddicks Rules of Procedure, an amendment shall be read by the Clerk before it is up for consideration or before the same shall be debated unless a request to waive the reading is granted ... the reading of which may not be dispensed with except by unanimous consent, and if the request is denied the amendment must be read and further interruptions are not in order. ... When an amendment is offered the regular order is its reading, and unanimous consent is required to call off the reading.
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