December 16th, 2009
06:25 PM ET
11 months ago

GOP senator freezes health care debate

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.


Filed under: Extra • GOP • Health care
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. S Callahan God help America!

    Some may complain this is being done..but it is important..to see the deficiency in the Bill....I hope everyone had a chance to hear former Dem Leader Howard Dean on the news....even he is against the current proposed plan..and why....he states that older Americans and those with pre existing illnesses will be paying 3X's the current cost of health insurance..did you hear that ?..3x's MORE... he also states way too many mini agencies are being created through this bill as well, essentially he sates the CHOICE for the people is being taken away...and that it's not worth passing in it PRESENT form...the bill has gone to far, pandered to the Insurance companies and special interests.....does that sound like a plan for the American people....

    Keep reading...we want to heart it all!

    December 16, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. annie s

    I've stopped playing nice. The GOP – and Mr. Joe Lieberman – are pigs. Instead of working for the American people, they are tools of their corporate sponsors.

    December 16, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. LMH

    "Coburn defended the tactic in a written statement, saying that Americans should hear competing proposals" And somehow reading the proposals out loud on the Senate floor is going to help your average American to hear them??

    December 16, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. Ken Williams

    I applaud his courage for trying anything to slow down the Liberal juggernaut that intends to bankrupt our country.

    December 16, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    How wonderfully petty.

    Soooo, what does it cost to pay 100 senators for a day wasted by 1 of them?

    Pay a speed reader again and get it over with. The GOP's taliban tantrum tactics are just another example of why they found themselves in their current situation as of November 4, 2008.

    "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."

    I don't know what I want more: for the bill to be addressed, voted on and decided or for the GOP to use every insidious tactic it can manage to further destroy itself.

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. joeblow

    The party of No is at it again, dragging their feet while democrats, the only progressives in DC, move forward with a bill aimed at helping the common citizen.

    Keep it up and we'll get more democrats in the senate next year!

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. Bill

    I guess that is at least one way we will know the some senators will know what they are voting on.

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. JS007

    Colburn's idea of a health plan was for people to have bake sales when they get sick. The GOP politicians are pure evil.

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. ran

    Now is the time to use Reconciliation and stop the insanity.

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. Jeff

    What's wrong with actually reading the 'monumental, sweeping reform' bill out loud, or at all for that matter? If it is so important, shouldn't it be read?

    The headline more appropriately should read, :"Liberal tries to slip in 767 page amendment." AMENDMENT!!!

    December 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. dessi4u

    How about if all the health care benefits and high incomes were taken away from the Republican senators, and they became ordinary Americans, would they stall and view passage of the bill with indifference to their fate? They voted in favor of two wars to battle invisible opponents and rid the world of a preceived evil man, but do not want to battle the real health-care crisis to ensure access to good heath plans. Go figure!

    December 16, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Laverne

    Another desperate attempt from GOP, "Great Opposition to Progress" to stop the American people from moving forward. This is right down dispicable and shameful to be so mean spirited to the point where it is no longer about the American people, but proving something to be someone's waterloo. How can they go back home and look their constiuents in the face. When you are a senator, you represent more than just the people who support your political bid. There are other people who are stuck with you regardless and can only hope you do the right thing when it comes to the people. There is a such a thing as Karma!

    December 16, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. JIm

    Typical of Neanderthal GOP. In the coming ice age they too shall persih

    December 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. Republicans is smart in the head area

    More intransigence from the irrelevant Republicans. No ideas and nothing to offer except bitterness and finger pointing.

    December 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. I think Coburn's move is fine

    ...as long as he's required to sit there and listen to the entire reading.

    December 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Randolph Carter. I'm no expert but...

    Sept. 3, 2003: The Hotline: “Lieberman: Calls for Health Care for Everyone”:

    “Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) on 9/2 unveiled his health care platform for the WH '04 campaign, "proposing a multifaceted plan under which he said no American would go without health insurance." His plan would "offer government-funded medical coverage aimed at filling all gaps between private plans and Medicare or Medicaid, at a projected cost of $53.4 billion over five years" . . . Lieberman "pledged" to offer "every American affordable health insurance from birth to age 25" as part of a $747B health care plan he unveiled to "counter" his WH '04 Dem rivals' plans.
    Lieberman said his plan would extend coverage to 31.6M "uninsured people within a decade–at less expense to the government than other Democratic candidates have proposed." He would create a "new universal health program called 'Medikids,' meant to guarantee coverage for the estimated 9 million children who are uninsured." Said Lieberman in his speech at an elementary school in Silver Spring, MD: "When I'm president, newborn babies won't go home just with a name and a birth certificate. All American children–rich or poor–will have health insurance that stays with them from the moment they're born, all the way to age 25" (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 9/3).
    Lieberman would pay for his plan by repealing "some" of Pres. Bush's tax cuts . . .”

    Have a nice day!

    December 16, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. demmie

    good for Coburn. It is the peoples right to have the amendment read aloud. He is doing the will of his constituency as their representative – whether you agree with it or not, at least the GOP senators are truly representing – you cant really say the same for the democrats who are pushing an unpopular bill that, poll after poll, does not have the support of the majroity of the USA.

    December 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. Debi

    I liked the amendment that would halt health care for congress until the bill is voted on.
    The Democrats need to find their speed reader.

    December 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. al in memphis

    Given the technolgy to date, it very easy for opposing Senators to list out specific provisions they do not agree with and show us how their idea would make it better. Unless of course, you have no interest in health care reform.

    Then all you have to do is yap that it's not good, it's socialistic, it's un-American, it's Obama care. In other words, the American public really can't count on you have an intelligent dialogue or make inform decisions.

    December 16, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Jake

    Republicans slowly progress? no kidding!
    it's getting old....

    December 16, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. Chris D.

    Delay all you want GOP...........this bill will pass.

    December 16, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. Hugo

    Expect the worst with Washington and this Administration, you will not be disappointed...Then if they get one right, you can celebrate!
    MERRY CHRISTMAS AMERICA!

    December 16, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  23. Lisa

    So the GOP is diabolically halting progress (of any kind) on any & all platforms now. Fantastic. Doin' a great job GOP!
    Thanks for the last decade by the way....good times.

    December 16, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. Cindy

    Stall stunts. These guys are disgusting.

    December 16, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. DianeR PCFL

    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.
    -------------------------------–

    I would amend the "Dr. No" moniker to add: "Dr. No Guts".

    December 16, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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