December 16th, 2009
06:25 PM ET
10 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. Kate

    The Republicans, and their man Lieberman (why doesn't he just admit he's a Republican?), will stop at anything to freeze or screw up the health care reform bill. The president once said he wanted Americans to have health care plans just like those our elected officials in Washington have. Since it doesn't look like they're going to give us what they've got, I suggest that their health plans be taken away from them so they have to go out and find a plan like the rest of us do. I realize politicians have deeper pockets than we do, and many have friends in the insurance industry, but maybe they need to see what it's like, just a bit, to find and pay for their own health coverage. AND just think of all the money the country will save by not providing health insurance for these losers.

    December 16, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. sensible Cape Coral FL

    Why does the bill have to be read aloud.? I know Republicans are stupid but are they also illiterate? Please explain.

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

    Somebody has to read this stuff. Might as well be the clerk.

    Reid hasn't shown anyone the bill. There's your transparency. The bill is so bad he won’t let anyone read it.

    December 16, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. Allen Lawson

    I have an idea, Let's tax the Insurance Companies, HMO's etc, that are responsible for the outrageous cost of Medical Care. Is it fair to require every working, tax paying American to purchase an insurance policy that probably will not even pay if they do get sick. Did we elect a Representative of the People or a Lobbyist for Insurance Companies? The problem with HealthCare is the Insurance Companies, who will always want higher premiums and less responsibility for coverage, and are also deciding what medication a patient should have instead of their doctor. That problem exist with the Medicare program also, My mother has to take money from retirement to buy her medicine because her Gap company decided they are not gonna pay for her regular prescription.Seems like with 40 million people without a job, getting more business for Insurance Companies would be on the back burner. This measure passes and one thing will be certain, We will have landslide Republican victories in Congress next year, and 2012 will welcome the next Republican President, and once again the Average American Taxpayer is 6 years away from having a voice in Washington. May God bless President Obama and God bless America.

    December 16, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Talk about Obstruction at it best. 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. THEY HAVE LIEBERMAN HELP.

    December 16, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. Bob of Lompoc

    As the Republicans sit and listen to the reading, and follow along, what will wear out first, their fingers or their lips?

    Another stupid trick by the escapees from the Zoo.

    I agree with Lieberman. He SHOULD run as a Republican next time. He certainly belongs with this herd.

    December 16, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. AJL

    I am all for a government sponsored public option but one thing I have to agree with is that every bill going through Congress needs to be read into the record. Not printed but have someone in Congress actually read it as part of the debate.

    December 16, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Jane/Seattle

    Lie-berman and the crew probably sat around over cocktails planning this strategy to derail healthcare for MILLION! Hmm? Now how can we really feed Capitalism's GREED and Screw the working poor little people we also created (Predatory systems CREATE POVERTY, People!)!
    POOR WAGES=Poor People!
    Inflated Prices=Poor People
    Over-priced HOUSING=Poor Homeless People
    GENOCIDE=Dead People all over from Multiple Causes created for Consumption by Capitalists!
    And on and on this manipulated system goes...

    Ben Bernanke=Time's Person of the year???
    I guess ONE who assists with this Economic manipulation of this world into MASSIVE POVERTY (as in Billions with a B!) would be honored Under Capitalism's Predatory WAYS! Who ya think ya fooling, Crooks?

    December 16, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Peter s

    It's the party of NO NO No if you watched Stabenow and Orrin Hatch, you can understand where the party of No is coming from! they are strategizing for 2010 and 2012 by pointing everything good or bad towards the Democrates!. and the irony is, not a single Democrate is calling on them! IBut the good part is the American people are not stupid, they know the party of the angry old men and what they did to the economy is unforgiveable!. Gop will freeze the healthcare debate and through language distortion they will act as the victimized party and yet they are the villain. GOD BLESS AMERICA !!

    December 16, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. Mark

    I bet the dems don't hang around to listen to the amendment, their votes are bought and paid for and they could care less what's in the final bill.

    December 16, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  11. Keeth in California

    GOP = Got 0 Plans. They are only obstructionists owned by the insurance industry.

    December 16, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. Peter E

    I actually agree with this move. I think all bills should be read aloud, considering it's obvious that these senators rarely read them to begin with. On any bill. But in that case I would also like them to read aloud all the pork proposals that have been added to these bills, that even republicans are very much guilty about! Read ALL of it! Read ALL bills aloud!

    December 16, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. Robert

    We, (the people) elected President Obama, by a sizable margin, I might add, and one of the main reasons was because of the promise of quality, affordable, health care for all of our people, not some trigger so that the insurance companies can stall until many of us are bankrupt or dead and they can keep on fleecing the American people just as they always have. Remember Harry & Louise? “ There’s got to be a better way” Well, it’s been fifteen years, where is it? Every other civilized country guarantees it’s people access to decent affordable health care but us and they have better results. I don’t hear them rushing to the polls to get rid of their “Government run healthcare”. By the way, the last time I checked The Veteran’s Administration Health program and Medicare and all of the government employees health care program are all “Government run programs” and I don’t hear any big screaming to abolish them, in fact I believe that there is more satisfaction with them than there is with the system run by HMOs and all the insurance companies.
    Don’t like Government programs?…Then don’t send your kids to a public school and don’t drive your cars on those Government provided interstate highways, just to name a couple of examples of “Socialism at work” As a matter of fact, hypocrisy seems to be the order of the day.
    We need Health Care as a right, not a privilege and we need it YESTERDAY!

    December 16, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. haren

    I am sick and tired of hearing Tort Reform issue very dear to all republican bloggers in these tickers.
    Let us analyze this issue rationally.
    Why it is so dear to republicans and they are fighting for whom.
    If you look at it than you will realize that republican are fighting for none other than insurance industry and surgeons who has million dollars practice.
    A poor patients by no mistake of his looses his life or became incapacitated has no choice but sue a doctors for his mistake.
    Republicans are fighting so that A doctor does not have to pay high premium and Insurance co. to pay high punitive damage.
    BOTTOM LINE REPUBLICAN NEVER FIGHT FOR A POOR MAN.

    December 16, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. www.circleparkforum.com

    In the Great Health Care Reform Kabuki Dance of 2009, both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have been trying to frame the conflict over a public health insurance option as being a fight between Democrats’ love for a public option and Republicans’ hatred for it.

    Well, Lieberman ripped the mask off the Obama administration and off the Senate Democrats.

    President Obama declared, “Now that the legislation has gone from watered down reform to no reform at all, let’s get this done!”

    Now that reform is dead, all that's left is to finish the kabuki so that both sides can score political points.

    They're all shameless failures.

    December 16, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. Dave

    Every person in congress should be required to read and ponder this bill. And the public should have ample time to look it over, too. No rushing it through like the bailouts.

    December 16, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom

    45,000 Americans die every year from lack of healthcare, this in the wealthiest nation on Earth!

    IF 45,000 Americans were dying because of terrorist attacks, you can bet that the Republicans would be rioting in the streets!

    However, the so-called-pro-life-GOP DOES NOT CARE about the 45,000 Americans who die every year!

    DEMOCRATS: WHO WILL BE ON THE SIDE OF THE MILLIONS WHO DO NOT HAVE HEALTHCARE? WHO WILL BE THE HERO?

    December 16, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. Robin in Tampa, FL

    Reid could simply use the nuclear option to end the Filibuster ... it's not like the Dems will use it much when they go out of power.

    December 16, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Brian

    This is just one example of why I am so frustrated with the system. Its games like this that just make me angry and sad. The games are played on both sides. Call it politics if you want, but it is ineffective. Even if both sides agreed on something, they wouldn't allow themselves to admit it, because once elections are over, the campaigning begins and the tactic used most often is to show what's wrong with the other side, rather than showing what can be done positively for the system.

    December 16, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. Doug

    What a proud moment for the hundreds of thousands of uninsured Oklahomans.
    Coburn is a disgrace to the Senate and an embarrassment to the Country.

    December 16, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. Preco

    Waste of time talking about Republican politics today!

    December 16, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. Walker

    I will start with – I am a Democrat. I support health care reform, just not sure if this bill is really what is best. I voted for Obama. I see NOTHING at all wrong with a United States Senator using the Senate rules to hold up a bill, to give it more time for debate, to require that the bill be read aloud. It is the constitutional process. In the beginning, ALL bills were read out loud, all amendments were read out loud and the Senators used to actually work in the Chamber together. In the world today, the Senators work in their own offices, they say that they read the bill on their own (which I doubt they do) and you can tune into CSPAN and rarely do you see many Senators on the floor. I agree with the rules of the Senate. I feel they are honorable rules, because when the roles were switched a short time ago with a Republican President, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House, it was these that kept us hanging on by a thread. If it were not for the Senate rules, this country would be in much worse shape. I don't agree with Coburn most of the time, but in this instance I say, Bravo.

    December 16, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. Jim

    The reading of the bill is in the rules for the Senators that are illiterate. I wonder how Senator Coburn got through medical school without knowing how to read...

    As for the argument that everything is going too fast, they've been saying this for 9 months. I think if you took a poll you'd find that Americans want this over with.

    December 16, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. aware

    Whatever works! This bill is an over reaching dem disaster. :(

    December 16, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. Wayne

    Kinda makes me sick just reading this stuff.

    December 16, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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