Thursday, December 17, 2009

Procedural Rules Backfire on Republicans

Sen. Sanders (I-VT) stepped to the Senate floor yesterday to offer an amendment (http://www.c-span.com/pdf/sanders_amend_2837.pdf) to establish a single-payer system for the United States. Typically when an amendment or a bill is offered the reading is waived. Not on this occasion. Sen. Coburn (R-OK) objected to the waiving of the reading thus the Senate Clerk started reading the amendment. After an hour of reading the amendment the clerk was only on page 25 of 366 (per the pdf above even though it was reported that the bill was over 750 pages). It was not until about 2:30 p.m. CST that Sen. Sanders came back to the floor and withdrew his amendment.

During his close, which is afforded every author the opportunity to make a final plea, Sen. Sanders turned the table on the Republicans by making a motion to table the Hutchison/Thune amendment. The Hutchison/Thune amendment (http://www.c-span.com/pdf/hutchison_motion.pdf) was a one page amendment that would have returned the Senate health care reform bill back to the Finance Committee to align the taxes and fees established with the start of provisions within the Senate Health Care Reform Bill. The motion made by Sen. Sanders to table the amendment, officially killing the amendment, passed 56-41. The turnabout is that Sen. Sanders, after watching his amendment reading waiver objection, snuck in the motion to table prior to finishing his close. The move is not something normally done during Senate rules; rather it was a Democrat response to a parliamentary procedure enlisted by the Republicans to slow down the debate on health care.

While it was comical to watch, the latter move by the Democrats were a bit more devious in the respect to sabotage a bipartisan effort for health care reform. Now, I wish the Senator from Vermont had not withdrawn his amendment as the debate on a single-payer system, I think is important, would have taken place. I am assuming that Sen. Sanders had posted his amendment on his webpage three days prior to it coming to the floor. I do acknowledge that the move by Sen. Coburn was a stall tactic but at the same time our current Congress has a recent track record of reading what they vote on. The debate will rage on today and the Republicans will continue to use procedural rules to delay the vote on the health care bill. Is it right? Is it bad politics?

The question at hand is what type of reform still remains with the stripping out of the public option and the expansion of Medicare? President Obama promised on the campaign trail that the health care reform debate would be held on C-SPAN and nothing would be done behind closed doors. In fact, just the opposite it taking place with the White House deals with PHARMA, AARP, and deals within the Democrat ranks. While many will tire of the procedural gimmicks to delay vote on health care, I am willing to wait for a bill that does reform a system in desperate need of reform. As for the Hutchison/Thune amendment that was the sacrificial lamb in the procedural rule game does raise a valid concern: Why are we all going to be taxed for four years before "reform" is implemented?