Written by Jim Simpson
On Saturday, December 12, Erick Erickson of Redstate.com published an article titled "Fight." This short, incisive article presented a crystal clear methodology Republican Senators could use to effectively hobble the monstrosity that has come to be known as "Obamacare." Relying on the many parliamentary procedures specifically created to force slow, careful deliberation on important issues, these tactics, if Republicans conjured the guts to use them, could grind this train wreck to a halt.
Yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) decided to do just that. Senators have the right to request that any amendment offered to pending legislation be read aloud in its entirety. In the interest of time, Senators usually dispense with this rule. Given the way Democrats have been so secretive about the healthcare bill however, the rule seems fortuitous, and makes one wonder why Republicans haven't used it until now.
Republicans claim they have had a plan in place for a while, and a memo from Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) suggests this is true. According to this theory, they were only waiting to pull out the stops until Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democrats finally revealed the full bill they've been working on in secret. Still, it is a curious coincidence that Republicans decide to use this tactic the first time only days after it is suggested by one of the most widely-read conservative bloggers.
In any event, when Vermont Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders offered a 767 page amendment to the healthcare bill yesteday, Coburn chose to invoke that rule. What followed was a travesty that should serve as an object lesson to anyone still wavering that these Democrats are corrupt beyond salvation.
The Senate Clerk began to read the amendment. As Redstate's Erickson explained today, Senate rules require that when one senator has the floor, no other senator may take action. Having asked for an amendment to be read, such an amendment must be read in its entirety. According to the Riddicks Senate Procedure guide:
Under Rule XV, paragraph 1, and Senate precedents, an amendment shall be read by the Clerk before it is up for consideration or before the same shall be debated unless a request to waive the reading is granted; in practice that includes an ordinary amendment or an amendment in the nature of a substitute, the reading of which may not be dispensed with except by unanimous consent, and if the request is denied the amendment must be read and further interruptions are not in order. (Emphasis added.)
"...the amendment must be read and further interruptions are not in order." That seems pretty clear, yet when the Democrats realized the reading could take sixteen hours or more, Senator Sanders asked that the amendment be pulled. In defiance of the rules, the Democrats recognized Sanders and pulled the amendment, denying Senator Coburn's 200 year old right to the floor.
The features embedded in this monstrous legislation break every precedent in the book. The enforcement mechanism alone, requiring citizens across the country to purchase government mandated insurance, under threat of criminal liability, is blatantly unconstitutional. The method by which Senate Democrats have shielded the legislation from examination, much less debate, is clearly unethical. The budget estimates used deliberately exclude or hide most of the actual cost are shocking in both duplicity and magnitude.
As Erickson said in today's column, what happened yesterday: "... violates the sacrosanct nature of the Senate's rules; rules so inviolable that until yesterday neither Democrat nor Republican ever risks crosses the rules in over 200 years... Hopefully the Senate Republicans now realize they are dealing with third world kleptocrats, not American legislators."
Michelle Bachman has called it "Gangster Government," and this columnist has been detailing Democrats' institutional corruption for years now. See here and here, for example. "Third world kleptocrats..." I couldn't have said it better.