The gloves are finally off in the Senate health care debate as Sens. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) began the first instance of what they promise will be continuous use of every procedural tool at their disposal to slow down passage of the Democrats’ government takeover of health care.
The bill is still being written behind closed doors as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tries to cut deals and purchase support from his own Democrat caucus to reach the magic 60 votes he needs to end the floor debate. The long-awaited Congressional Budget Office cost estimate is delayed again by Reid’s backroom dealing and re-dealing.
Coburn and DeMint hope to buy enough time for the American people to examine the contents of the bill which may be released today. Democrats hope that most will be distracted by the holiday season, at this point possibly holding a final passage vote on Christmas Eve.
Democrats have always had the numbers to ram the highly-unpopular statist power grab through both chambers. It has been the resounding voice of the American people in overwhelming opposition that has prevented the health care bill’s passage to date.
Coburn erected the first hurdle yesterday when he forced the reading by the Clerk of the Senate a 767-page amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Coburn urged the American people to listen to the reading of the amendment which would have created a Canada-like single-payer system. Coburn also praised Sanders for having the guts to be up front about his desire to have government bureaucrats making all of the health care decisions in America.
“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,” Coburn said.
Soon after, DeMint announced he was joining in support of Coburn’s procedural effort, and the organized opposition began in earnest.
“Democrats are playing a bait and switch trick — wasting our time debating a bill they’ve rejected while writing a new one in secret,” DeMint said. “Right now, behind closed doors, Democrats are writing a brand new bill, thousands of pages long, and want to rush it through before Christmas.”
“Americans are tired of watching their leaders in Washington pass bills they haven’t even bothered to read,” DeMint continued. “If Senator Reid won’t slow down this debate, we will do it for him. This bill allows the federal government to take over our health care system, and it must be stopped. We will use whatever procedural tools are necessary to defeat this bill.”
The clerk is required by Senate rules to read every bill and amendment aloud when offered on the Senate floor. By unanimous consent, the reading of these bills and amendments is routinely waived. If one Senator objects, denying unanimous consent, the clerk is then forced to read all bills and amendments aloud.
Senate clerks began reading the 767-page amendment in shifts, a feat that some estimated would take up to 17 hours.
But three hours into the reading, Senate Democrat leadership convinced the Senate Parliamentarian to rule “in order” a halt to the reading of the amendment to allow Sanders to withdraw his amendment.
(As a side note, this is the same Senate Parliamentarian who would “rule” what parts of health care are “germane” to the budget reconciliation process should the Democrats find themselves short of necessary 60 votes and decide to use the arcane budget procedure to try to pass health care with 51 votes. I’m just sayin’…)
In a 30-minute rant, Sanders, the self-described socialist, railed against the American health care system — the greatest health care system in the world — before pulling his amendment.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell later exposed the skullduggery in remarks from the Senate floor.
“The plain language of the Senate precedent, the manual that governs Senate procedure, is that unanimous consent of all members was required before the Senator from Vermont could withdraw his amendment while it was being read.
“Earlier today, the majority somehow convinced the parliamentarian to break with the long standing precedent and practice of the Senate in the reading of the bill.
“Senate procedure states clearly, and I quote: under Rule 15, paragraph 1, and Senate precedents, 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.
“It goes on to state that, quote, ‘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.’
“You may have heard that the majority cites an example in 1992 where the chair made a mistake and allowed something similar to happen. But one mistake does not a precedent make.
“For example, there is precedent for a Senator being beaten with a cane here in the Senate. If mistakes were the rule, the caning of Senators would be in order. Fortunately for all of us, it is not.
“It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-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.”
As part of their parliamentary strategy, Coburn and DeMint will insist that the entire bill, expected to run in excess of 2,000 pages, be read on the Senate floor once it emerges from the bowels of Reid’s office. This will likely be the only shot for people to make themselves aware of the contents before Democrats force a vote over Christmas. If they finally get the vaunted 60 votes, of course.
House Adjourns for Christmas
The House of Representatives last night adjourned for the week, month, year and decade. After a year of unprecedented spending and deficits — not to mention the outright abandonment of representative governance by the Democrat leadership — the adjournment came none too soon.
Setting another arbitrary deadline in vowing to have a health care bill on the president’s desk for signature before his State of the Union Address in early February next year, the House passed a “Son of Stimulus” spending bill as an exclamation point to its nearly one and a half trillion dollars of deficit spending for the year. Then they abruptly left town.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was in a big hurry to lead what was rumored on the Hill to be a five airplane caravan to Copenhagen to try to stop the little people of the world from emitting greenhouse gasses.