Long Overdue Pushback Arrives in Senate

The Senate still requires that Bills and Amendments be read on the floor. This requirement is almost always dispensed with via the Unanimous Consent of the chamber.

Having been flooded with legislation and amendments which no one could possibly read in the time between introduction and vote, that unanimous consent is now in short supply:

Coburn fires warning shot across Senate Democrats’ bow;
DeMint threatens to do the same to entire bill

by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the Reid version of ObamaCare that would have established a single-payer health-care system in the US. No one expected this to go anywhere; in fact, most people shrugged at its introduction as simply a sop, especially since the public option and Medicare buy-in couldn’t get 60 votes, let alone an explicit single-payer system. However, Tom Coburn made it into news by following through on a warning from last month, as Philip Klein reports:

Sen. Tom Coburn has just demanded that the Senate clerk read the single-payer amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders — and it’s 767 pages.

Typically, Senators offering amendments will ask for unanimous consent to avoid reading the entire meausure, but all it takes is one Senator to object to demand its reading, and Coburn objected to Sanders attempt to dispense with the reading of the amendment.

The boss is delighted:

This is transparency in action.

The Senate’s chief socialist, Bernie Sanders, offered a single-payer health care amendment. It would open Medicare to all regardless of age, income, etc., and would be paid through higher income taxes. The normal procedure on the Senate floor would have been to dispense with the reading of the amendment. But “to alert taxpayers to this latest Washington scheme to take away your health care decisions,” Senator Coburn’s office writes, Sen. Coburn demanded that the full text of the 767 page Sanders amendment be read by the Senate clerk. …

Big Nanny dreams and schemes laid bare.

It took eighteen minutes just to get through the table of contents … for an amendment. Philip says the pace picked up a bit afterward, and the entire amendment could be read within about 12 hours. That’s twelve hours of floor time, assuming Coburn keeps withholding unanimous consent.

What does this do? It makes a hash out of Harry Reid’s plan to move the bill through the Senate by Christmas. Twelve hours of floor time for just a single amendment means that no other business can be conducted until at least Friday. Coburn apparently launched this effort in response to an attempt by Reid to shove the bill to a cloture vote without giving everyone enough time to read the bill or peruse the CBO analysis, due this week.

It’s a reminder that even with a supermajority, Reid needs to work with the minority to keep momentum. He can’t pull a Nancy Pelosi jamdown in the upper chamber, and any further attempts will mean weeks of bill reading as the legislation effectively filibusters itself.

Exit Question: Why wasn’t this done weeks ago?

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