December 16th, 2009
06:25 PM ET
9 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. Marion/Alabama

    A single payer plan,was dead in the water when the public option was killed. So the Democrats are really the blame for trying to add it back in under an amendment when they know it will fail,You can not fix stupid.

    December 16, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. Really

    I cant believe they are forcing them to read it before they vote on it. My, those darn Republicans. How absurd to think that it should be read. Dont they know that the Democrates know whats best for all of us. I cant imagine there is anything really hidden in the 800 pages. These are politicians.

    December 16, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Jason

    I don't really appreciate the GOP playing games with the passage of a healthcare bill. Keep your childish games to yourself and get some real work done on the floor.

    December 16, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Defender of the United States Constitution

    Dr. Coburn should have his medical license revoked, he is not only violating his oath of office that he took on his first day as Congressman, he is also violating th Hippocratic Oath.

    Hey Doc, how many more people will die on your watch?

    December 16, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. Jason

    With the both the public option and Medicare provisions out, what exactly are republicans objecting to?

    December 16, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  6. SouthPhillyBallz

    Well, at least they're doing something productive and not simply putting their partisan agenda on display. {Cough, cough.}

    December 16, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  7. Bobert

    767 pages!? Man I would want them to read it too. God knows what kind of complex rules or complications they "stuffed" into it, especially since the bill is already two thousand pages long.

    December 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. Dar

    Reid just wants everyone to vote now and any smart person would say no, lets see what is really on this bill. It seems that the more this bill is read the more trash it is becoming, and why wouldnt it be a piece of junk. It was thrown together at Odumbo's request and he really thought that he had the power to push this through.
    Well the people have spoken to their senators and have put them on notice, get this right or junk this pig of a bill.

    December 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Aren't those cute little republicans the biggest piles of crap you have ever seen?

    December 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. jaybird

    CNN get it right! The GOP did nothing because they don't have the majority. Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat who was thrown under the bus, did more to stop this and Bernie Sanders, left of left, had his shenanigans put back on him. The Dems have the majority. They are scared to wear anything and want to drag the GOP down with them in the name of 'bipartisanship'.

    December 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    I hope you wingnuts remember these tactics, and they come back to bite you in the butt. You communist chumps.

    December 16, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Unfortunately, this is probably the only time the amendment will ever be read. Does anyone really believe that anyone in Congress ever actually reads these thousand-page monstrosities?

    And does anyone really believe, after rejecting the public option and the Medicare expansion, even the profound imbeciles that make up most of Congress would vote for a single-payer plan?

    December 16, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Matt

    787 pages to amend a bill? Obviously the bill is garbage if the democrats only option is to push through policies that nobody reads. Obama and the democrats are trying to shove a bill down everyone's throat that only 35% approve–yes, over 60% of Americans disapprove (80% of Americans are happy with their insurance/healthcare).

    Let's fix issues with the current system–focusing on items that WILL BRING THE COST OF HEALTHCARE DOWN (electronic medical records, TORT reform, hospitals listing costs, alternatives to HMOs...). Once we do that, we move the next issue.

    p.s. Government doesn't always need to be involved.

    December 16, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  14. ICARE

    This is the reason why I mentioned that we should make the ELEPHANTS a permanent MINORITY in Congress. It only takes one elephant to scaer al lthe donkeys away.

    The Republi CONs are so smart, that it doesnt matter if they are the minority. They are stil going to ruin the day.

    December 16, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. Jim

    (shakes head)

    more party of no idiocy. don't the republicans know how to read ... they've gotta have someone else read it to them?

    when will the republicans try to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem?

    December 16, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    A given the bill's going to get passed, eh, Coburn & Company?

    What's *unfortunate*, Coburn, is proving just how infantile the GOP has become. Regular temper tanturm, foot stomping, same old same old coming from the party of *Real America* losers.

    I have lifelong republicans in my family who are absolutely disgusted with this behavior, as well as the behavior of the tea baggers, the birthers, the deathers, and, yes, Palin. These diehard republicans are now moaning about the upcoming election of 2010 and threatening to stay home. Believe me, they will!

    Keep up the good work, GOPers!

    December 16, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. Jay

    What else is new from the Republican filth? They have no plan except to shoot down what the majority want. So that is a strategy?

    I hope you Republicans get handed your ass in the next elections again. Maybe then you can pull your head out of it.

    December 16, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    I don't know but why are we still talking about Health Care? Good lord, let us pray...

    I have no idea what's in this initiative or what is expected of. I don't blame "Dr. No." We don't understand the language, we don't understand the content, we don't understand the structure, etc. We just plain don't understand one bit of it.

    I applaud Dems for trying and figuring this out, I give em props. But this is too complicated. When the 2010 elections come, the only thing you're gonna worry about is getting "whacked" in the polls because we are gonna be fed up with it. As long this is still being talked about, the effects are gonna be greater then taking your first smoke from a joint. Is a joke in other words.

    I don't understand, I confess but when I get shot, then I can probably worry it but for now, let me get shot and I'll tell you if its important or not.

    December 16, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  19. aneanderthal

    I wish the republicans would just let the dems go on with this farce so we can get them out of office sooner. Do Obama, Pelosi, Reid and all of the libertards think the American people are so dumb as to believe something that assesses taxes on us for ten years to pay for seven years worth of coverage is going unnoticed? Is this something like Obama saying there would be no earmarks in budget bills, no lobbyists in his administration, full transparency in everything he does, and no tax increases on the middle class. HE LIED. Unfortunately CNN is such a big booster of the liar in chief the moderator does not let any of my rants through

    December 16, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Chris

    These tactics by the GOP really goes to show they are a party of NO!!!
    Instead of coming up with these silly little games to halt the bill they should have been in there debating the Bill and trying to a consensus on key issues of the Bill.
    But, give the fact they are constantly talking about how huge the bill is it would be good that they finally read it. Becasue i'm sure none of them have even looked at the first page!!!

    December 16, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. Paula Cooley

    Way to go Senator/Dr. Coburn, it is about time someone stood up for the people. HOORAH!!

    December 16, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  22. Bob in Pa

    Maybe now we can get these children in the Senate to at least listen to the bill because we all know thay are not reading it themselves.
    Lets find them a good Kindergarten teacher to come in a read it to them.

    December 16, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  23. Ben in Texas

    They need to listen to Bernie's amendment and pass it. Now THAT would be some serious health care reform! America could then join the rest of the civilized world, with single-payer health care.

    December 16, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  24. Lori in St Pete

    The dems need to push back and tell the party of NO that NOBODY'S going home for the holidays until this thing gets settled.

    December 16, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  25. sensible Cape Coral FL

    Just who the hell does Tom Coiburn think he is? To willingly thwart the wishes of the majority takes a degree of arrogance that even some Thinking (?) Republicans should be ashamed of .

    December 16, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
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