Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says he will make sure the entire healthcare bill is read out loud on the Senate floor before debate can proceed.
Though the final Senate bill hasn’t been revealed yet, the House version spanned almost 2,000 pages. The Senate bill is likely to be at least 1,000 pages.
It would take the Senate clerk at least a few days to complete the task.
Democrats hope to take up the bill by Friday. But if Coburn follows through on his threat, a motion to proceed could be delayed until next week.
“The American people are going to get to hear this bill,” Coburn told reporters Monday night.
Under Senate rules, any senator can demand that a bill be read before debate. Republicans, however, would have to stay on the floor the entire time to object to Democratic motions to stop the reading.
To the extent that Coburn is the poster child for Republican obstructionism in the Senate, it is entirely fitting that he will be the one to pull this stunt. However, Roll Call reports that “earlier this month, Republican leadership aides said Coburn was unlikely to make such a move without the blessing of GOP leaders.”
Assuming that Roll Call’s conjecture is correct, and the guys who pass for leaders in the Republican Party have blessed this piece of obstructionism, one has to wonder if they have actually thought this through (assuming they are capable of thinking, which is not a proposition that is lent any credence by any of their actions over, say, the last year).
Despite their marked tendency to give Republicans a pass on practically everything, the TV news media will surely be unable to resist reporting on this piece of political theater. Especially if Democrats force the reading to take place over the weekend:
Harkin said Democrats expect Republicans will try to stall the debate by asking for the entire bill to be read on the Senate floor. If that happens, Harkin said, the majority party is likely to use a procedural maneuver to keep the Senate in session this weekend.
“If the Republicans want to stay here this Saturday and Sunday to read the bill, then let them stay here,” Harkin said, adding that Democrats would hold a “live quorum,” where the sergeant at arms requests the presence of all absent senators.
“I’ll tell you, we’re going to do something like that,” Harkin said. “We are planning to do something that would require Republicans to be there 24 hours a day, and if they leave the floor, we’ll ask unanimous consent to dispense with the reading, and that’ll be the end of it.”
As Coburn says, the American people are going to get to see all this happening. He seems to have deluded himself into thinking that’s a plus. However, Americans are already pretty fed up at Republican Party obstructionism of anything and everything under the sun. The spectacle of the Republicans forcing a reading of the entire 1,000 page bill is only going to reinforce their “no effing way” image, and make Americans even more fed up at not just rampant obstructionism, but also at the increasingly childish forms it takes.