WASHINGTON (CNN) – As Democrats scrambled to meet self-imposed deadlines, Senate Republicans froze the health care debate for at least a day Wednesday by insisting that a 767-page mega-amendment be read out loud in its entirety.
The move was poised take some 12 hours or more and grind Senate business to a halt for the day. It also threatened Democrats' ability to pass a health care bill before Christmas.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, set things in motion around lunchtime Wednesday. As the Senate moved to a sweeping single-payer amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Coburn objected to the common Senate procedure that waives the actual out-loud reading of the proposal.
"I would ask that the amendment be considered as read," Sanders said on the floor.
"I object," Coburn instantly responded.
Senate clerks began with the table of contents and took turns reciting the rest of the bill.
A Republican leadership aide confirmed that party members discussed the parliamentary move at their caucus meeting and planned to require the reading of the entire Sanders amendment.
Coburn defended the tactic in a written statement, saying that Americans should hear competing proposals and that the health care debate needed to slow down.
"It's unfortunate that (Majority Leader Harry) Reid waited until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it through the Senate," Coburn wrote.
Reid's office responded to CNN by pointing out that the move pushes back votes on other time-sensitive bills, including funding for the military.
"The only thing that Sen. Coburn's stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the (defense) appropriations bill that funds our troops," Reid
spokesman Jim Manley said in an e-mailed statement. It's "not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No."
"Dr. No" is a common Democratic nickname for Coburn, a conservative physician adamantly opposed to most Democratic initiatives.
A Republican leadership aide told CNN that the amendment reading is an example of many tools the party has at its disposal and one they may use again.
Another opportunity is coming soon. Reid has yet to unveil the language for a compromise amendment, which is expected to be lengthy and would also take considerable time to read out loud.
Tom Coburn, if there were justice in this world you'd fall victim to a debilitating medical condition and go bankrupt paying medical bills.
The party of "No" has become the party of "No shame". You are wasting time while Americans go without healthcare. I hope the voters are paying attention moron.
I wonder how many of the GOP Senators will listen to the reading of the bill instead of being outside rubbing elbows with health industry lobbyists. Master of obstruction. Masters of cynicism. Masters of dirty tricks. Your GOP.
BRAVO-BRAVO...stop this rush to socialism and unions control of this Nation.
Is that the bipartisanship Republicans are always squawking that they don't get?
Where is that speed-reading guy?
Wow, that's the biggest piece of legislation that the GOP has written all year. Isn't it obvious to anyone else who's in the pockets of the insurance companies.
Oh the cruel games people will play to appease their buddies at the for-profit health insurance companies!
You gotta love the GOP stall tactics - wonder if any of them have ever read the Patriot Act?
Why can't the republicans work for the american public instead of their own narrow self interest? They predict victory in the next election. I think they will be shocked by their losses.
Awesome move and I got to see it live, its was freaking great!!! What is the rush, they don't even have the bill in any kind of a form now anyway. With all the hidden back alley deals and secret meetings, the Dems not only look desparate but VERY VERY untrustworthy.
KILL THE BILL.....2010 November....Change that the Country Deparately needs is Coming. The last one didn't work out so well.
Keep stalling this GOP! Lets push this horrible bill past January, and the Dems know that this will kill them in the midterms. The Republicans are to be commended for trying to stop this bill and will be rewarded in 2010.
Is Dr. No a commonly used nickname for Colburn? Love it!
It's a stunt for Reid, Pelosi, and Obama to rush proposed legislation through when, clearly, the American people don't want it and are tired of additional wasteful spending.
Great job, Sen. Coburn.
What an idiot- Coburn shoud be seen for exactly that. In this day and age, we can't afford such childish nonsense. I'm in my mid 30's and am beginning to think that I may never see a day again that the American goverment works for it's people. The people who sent this jerk to conngress should re-assess their voting positions the next time he's up for re-election.
Republicans never asked to read the Patriot Act in its entirety.
It finally came out. The GOP senators can not read. They are not only stupid, they can not read. Poor things!!!!!!!!!!!
Senators make over $180,000 a year, plus benefits, paid for by us taxpayers, as well as a slew of staff members to read this stuff, and this is what we're paying for, obstructionism?
Stunts, what has this Coburn proposed himself? What has he done for America?
It is a shame this is what passes for leadership in America.
At least we can now say that it was read.....
Once again – no real plans, just more obstruction. I cannot believe I was once a registered republican. We've got to move beyond childish politics and see if we can't really make a difference. Otherwise, let's disband congress and start over.
Thank God for this. A 767-page amendment? GEEZ, Sanders ought to be ashamed. Is he hiding something from the American people? As far as most Americans are concerned, we need to do anything and everything we can to stop this travesty of a bill from ruining the future of Americans now and in the future.
Nice move GOP – stall. stall , stall on Health Care
Have you no shame?
The US Senate is a disgrace. When senators like Lieberman and Coburn are allowed to substitue their egos for the good of the country, this institution has outlived its usefulness.
People need to boycott elections because they clearly are not central to a real democracy any more. Let these ego-driven politicians and the special interests they represnt play alone in that sandbox!
Why don't the democrats want others to read the bill??? I suspect they are trying to hide something. SHAME ON THEM! If they would listen to the voters, this bill would never pass. 61% oppose the bill!!!