Democrats Hammer Coburn, GOP for Delaying Tactics

Posted December 16, 2009 at 1:13pm

Senate Democrats wasted little time Wednesday in attacking Republicans’ efforts to stall the health care debate, accusing the GOP of putting a Defense spending bill on hold and warning it could mean the department will run out of funding before the measure is passed.Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Wednesday morning officially launched the GOP’s procedural war against the health care bill when he forced the full reading of a 767-page amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Democratic and Republican aides have said it will take clerks up to 12 hours to read the entire amendment, which would create a single-payer health care system.“The only thing that Sen. Coburn’s stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the DOD appropriations bill that funds our troops — not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No,— said Jim Manley, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) spokesman.Under the chamber’s rules, the only way to interrupt the reading of the bill is to offer a unanimous consent agreement to end the reading — a move that Coburn would block. In the past, lawmakers have worked out a time agreement under which the Senate recesses for about the amount of time it would take to read a bill. But Republicans said they are unlikely to agree to such a proposal if Democrats were to propose it.Coburn and others said they were forcing the reading of the amendment in order to understand what it would do.“The American people deserve to understand the competing approaches to reform in the U.S. Senate. It’s unfortunate that 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.Manley rejected that argument, noting that the Sanders amendment has existed since March. “The Republicans need time to consider the Sanders amendment? He introduced this on March 25,— Manley said.Privately, Republican aides acknowledged the ploy is part of a broader arsenal of procedural tactics Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has amassed during the health care debate that are designed to slow work on the bill. The decision to force the reading was made Wednesday morning “with the full backing of the entire Conference,— a GOP leadership aide said, acknowledging that the move would throw off Reid’s plans to complete the Defense funding bill, as well as a number of other extenders for programs such as transportation and the PATRIOT Act.Reading the amendment “makes that impossible,— the aide said, arguing that Reid should have seen the move coming.“What did Reid expect to happen, offering an 800-page amendment this late in the game?— the GOP leadership aide said.