Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), on Wednesday, did his part to help out
those who can't read legislation themselves, and asked the Senate clerk
to read a single-payer amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders out loud on
the Senate floor. The reading of the 767-page amendment is expected to
take about 12 hours.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont, first filed his amendment on December 2, so the GOP has indeed had two weeks to read it.
By jamming up Senate business, Coburn's move prevents a vote on a
funding bill for the Department of Defense. The current funding
provision expires at midnight on Friday.
Coburn said he was doing Americans a favor. "I admire Senator
Sanders for his willingness to fight for publically [sic] what many
advocate only privately -- a single payer health care system funded and
controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington. Every American
should listen to the reading of this amendment and pay careful
attention to its vote tally," Coburn said in a statement.
"The American people deserve to understand the competing approaches
to reform in the U.S. Senate. It's unfortunate that Senator Reid waited
until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it
through the Senate. This reading will provide a dose of transparency
that has been lacking in this debate."
The group, "Senate Doctors," a Republican coalition of lawmakers with medical backgrounds, re-tweeted that Coburn was "a rockstar."
Senate Democrats are powerless to prevent the full reading of the
amendment due to parliamentary rules. And they don't appreciate the
favor. "The only thing that Sen. Coburn's stunt achieves is to stop us
from moving to the DoD appropriations bill that funds our troops -- not
exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from
Dr. No," said Jim Manley, senior communications adviser to Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Coburn has a long and unapologetic career of standing in the way of Senate business.
Sanders provided a summary of his amendment to colleagues: "This
amendment would establish a single payer health insurance system that
would cover every person legally residing in the United States. The
single payer system would be regulated and funded by the federal
government through a payroll tax and an income tax, but it would be
administered by the states. It would replace the coverage and revenue
titles of the current bill, but it would leave in place most of the
provisions in the quality, prevention, and workforce titles of the
bill. This amendment starts from the premise that health care is a
human right, and that every citizen, rich or poor, should have access
to health care, just as every citizen has access to the fire
department, the police, or public schools."