With Senate Democrats struggling to achieve a 60-vote majority in an effort to export Harry Reid’s healthcare bill to a conference committee, Senate Republicans have now begun to fight.
Currently, the Senate clerk is struggling through a 767-page amendment to the healthcare bill, per an objection by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to unanimous content to dispense with the reading of the bill. Coburn’s objection will throw an estimated delay of some 38 hours in front of the dispensation of the amendment by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which would create single-payer federal health insurance.
Up to now, the GOP has largely stood on the sidelines while Reid and his fellow Democrats careened back and forth in an attempt to find a 60-vote majority on the bill. The failure of the Democrats to agree on a deal and the multitude of bad ideas being bandied about in an attempt to attract the various species of leftist populating the majority have created a consensus among the American people that doing nothing or starting over from scratch would be highly preferable to the current 2,074-page horror currently being contemplated.
Thus, Coburn has stepped forward to gum up the Senate’s works. When the unanimous consent request was issued on the Sanders amendment to dispense with the reading, Coburn piped up and objected, initiating the delay. Coburn then offered something of his own, which touched off an entertaining back-and-forth with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT):
MR. COBURN: MR. PRESIDENT, I HAVE ANOTHER UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST. FOLLOWING CONSENT REQUEST WOULD BE ASSOCIATED WITH A COBURN AMENDMENT THAT WOULD CERTIFY THAT EVERY MEMBER OF THE SENATE HAS READ THE BILL AND UNDERSTANDS IT BEFORE THEY VOTE ON THE BILL.
AND THE REASON I ASK THE UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT THAT AMENDMENT BE AGREED TO AND ACCEPTED IS THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE EXPECT US TO BE DOING. AND SO WE — WE DON’T HAVE A BILL RIGHT NOW. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO BE IN THE BILL. THE CHAIRMAN HAS A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT’S GOING TO BE IN THE BILL. BUT HE DOESN’T KNOW FOR SURE. ONLY TWO SETS OF PEOPLE, SENATOR REID AND HIS STAFF AND C.B.O. KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO BE IN THE BILL. I SUSPECT SOMEBODY AT THE WHITE HOUSE MIGHT. BUT WE OUGHT TO — WE OUGHT TO TAKE AND EMBRACE THIS IDEA OF TRANSPARENCY AND RESPONSIBILITY THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE CAN EXPECT EVERY ONE OF US TO HAVE READ THIS BILL PLUS THE AMENDED BILL AND — AND CERTIFY THAT WE HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING FOR WHAT WE’RE DOING TO HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA WITH THIS BILL. AN I’D ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT THAT BE ACCEPTED.
MR. BAUCUS: MR. PRESIDENT?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: IS THERE OBJECTION?
MR. BAUCUS: MR. PRESIDENT?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM MONTANA.
MR. BAUCUS: RESERVING THE RIGHT TO OBJECT.
I CERTAINLY AGREE WITH THE BASIC UNDERLYING IMPORT THAT WE SHOULD KNOW WHAT WE’RE VOTING ON HERE. I MUST SAY TO MY GOOD FRIEND THAT PRESUMES A CERTAIN LEVEL OF — OF PERCEPTION ON MY PART AND UNDERSTANDING IN DELVING INTO THE MINDS OF THE SENATOR, THAT NOT ONLY DO THEY READ, BUT TAKE THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND? WHAT DOES UNDERSTAND MEAN? UNDERSTAND THE FIRST, SECOND LEVELS OF QUESTIONS?
I THINK IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CERTIFY THAT ANY SENATOR FULLY UNDERSTOOD. THEY HEY READ, BUT NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS.
MR. COBURN: I WOULD CLARIFY MY REQUEST. THAT THE INDIVIDUAL CERTIFY THEMSELVES. I’M NOT ASKING SOME GROUP OF SENATORS TO CERTIFY SOME OTHER SENATOR. I’M SAYING TOM COBURN TELL HIS CONSTITUENCY I’VE READ THIS PUPPY, I’VE SPENT THE TIME ON IT, I’VE READ THE MANAGER’S AMENDMENT, AND I, IN FACT, CERTIFY TO THE PEOPLE OF OKLAHOMA, I KNOW HOW TERRIBLE IT’S GOING TO BE FOR THEIR HEALTH CARE.
MR. BAUCUS: THE SENATOR IS ALWAYS FREE TO MAKE ANY REPRESENTATION HE WANTS. IF HE WANTS TO CERTIFY HE HAS READ IT, HE HAS UNDERSTOOD IT, THAT’S THE SENATOR’S PRIVILEGE.
MR. COBURN: THE SENATOR WON’T ACCEPT THAT WE AS A BODY ON 1/6 OF THE ECONOMY OUGHT TO KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING.
MR. BAUCUS: I CAN’T CERTIFY ANY MEMBER OF THE SENATE HAS DONE ANYTHING AROUND HERE. NEITHER CAN THE SENATOR FROM OKLAHOMA. IF THE SENATOR WANTS TO CERTIFY IT, THAT’S GREAT. ON ANY MEASURE. BUT I CAN’T CERTIFY ON 100 DIFFERENT SENATORS. THAT’S UP TO THE DIFFERENT SENATORS. THAT’S UP TO THEIR MENTAL CAPACITIES AND CONSCIENCES AND SO FORTH. I CAN’T CERTIFY THAT.
Essentially, the tactical switch on the part of the Republicans in the Senate – or at least on the part of Sen. Coburn, though RNC chair Michael Steele was on MSNBC today defending the objection and the delays – is a recognition that the American people are opposed to Obamacare and want Republicans on Capitol Hill to kill this thing.
None of this is particularly new. When the Democrats last had a working majority in the White House and Congress they attempted to inflict Hillarycare on the American people, and one of the reasons for the Republican revolution in 1994 was the public’s desire to punish Democrats for attempting it. The lesson has not been learned, though, and it appears history is about to repeat itself in next year’s elections.
UPDATE: Jim DeMint has now joined the fray:
“Democrats are playing a bait and switch trick — wasting our time debating a bill they’ve rejected while writing a new one in secret. Right now, behind closed doors, Democrats are writing a brand new bill, thousands of pages long, and want to rush it through before Christmas.”
“Americans are tired of watching their leaders in Washington pass bills they haven’t even bothered to read,” said Senator DeMint. “If Senator Reid won’t slow down this debate, we will do it for him. This bill allows the federal government to take over our health care system, and it must be stopped. We will use whatever procedural tools are necessary to defeat this bill.”
UPDATE NO. 2: The Sanders Amendment has now been withdrawn.