Coburn Launches Procedural Move to Slow Health Care Debate

Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:26am

Updated: 1:01 p.m.Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) fired the first shot in the GOP’s procedural guerrilla war campaign against Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care bill Wednesday, forcing the Senate clerk to read a more than 700-page amendment to the bill, a process that could take hours.For weeks Republicans have warned that they would use the chamber’s arcane procedures to stall the legislation, using tactics like requiring amendments to be read in full, live quorum calls and other rules to slow the pace of the health care debate to a crawl.Coburn forced the reading of the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), after Democrats rejected his unanimous consent request that no amendment be voted on until it has been available for 72 hours. Coburn also attempted to offer an amendment that would require certification that all Members of the Senate have read and understand the final health care bill. Democrats also blocked that effort.In a statement, Coburn noted that Sanders’ amendment would create a single-payer, government-run health care system.“I admire Senator Sanders for his willingness to fight for publically what many advocate only privately — a single payer health care system funded and controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington. Every American should listen to the reading of this amendment and pay careful attention to its vote tally,— Coburn said.Coburn has offered an alternative bill that would, among other things, create state-based exchanges to help residents shop for medical coverage and extend tax benefits for various kinds of coverage, which he calls a “patient-centered— approach to health care reform.“The American people deserve to understand the competing approaches to reform in the U.S. Senate. It’s unfortunate that Senator Reid waited until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it through the Senate. This reading will provide a dose of transparency that has been lacking in this debate,— Coburn said.Democrats said Coburn’s stunt presented a case in point for why they have been trying to bring the health care debate to a close before Christmas.“They’re clearly just trying to delay,— one Senate Democratic aide said. Democratic Senators may hold a news conference sometime Wednesday afternoon to address what they consider to be GOP obstruction tactics.The aide said the reading could take until midnight Wednesday or into the early morning Thursday.The Senate Democratic aide also noted that the time it takes to read the amendment could endanger a massive, must-pass Defense Department spending bill. GOP opposition to that bill was expected to force several days of debate on that measure alone, and Reid was expected to file a motion to kill a filibuster Wednesday afternoon in order set up a Friday vote on Defense spending. A stopgap spending bill to keep the department funded expires Friday.