767 Pages of Single Payer

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Heeeeeeeere we go. Right now in the Senate chamber, GOP delay tactics on the Democratic health care reform bill are in full swing. The Senate clerk is reading out aloud the text of an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders that would insert a single-payer system into the health care bill. The process of verbally entering amendments into the official record is typically waived, but a senator – in this case Republican Sen. Tom Coburn – can force it to happen. The Sanders amendment is particularly long at 767 pages. I think it might actually be the longest amendment offered so far, making it a prime target for Republicans looking for a way to slow down Democratic process on the health care bill.

That Coburn is using the rules of the Senate against the Democrats should come as no surprise. As Mark Leibovich reported in the New York Times in October:

As the health care overhaul heads to the Senate floor, Mr. Coburn is preparing for what he considers a career pinnacle of havoc. Enacting the proposal, he says, would be catastrophic, and so if precedent holds, he will try to hinder it with every annoying tool in his arsenal: filing amendments (he has done that 508 times since joining the Senate, second only to John McCain’s 542 in that period), undertaking filibusters and objecting strenuously.

“When it comes to obstructing bills, he is part of a very tiny pantheon in the history of the Senate,” said Ross Baker, a Senate historian at Rutgers University.

To Mr. Coburn, charges of obstructionism are a mark of honor he will wear as proudly as ever in the coming weeks.

“My mission is to frame this health care debate in terms of the fiscal ruin of this country,” said the 61-year-old Mr. Coburn, who recently railed on the Senate floor that the federal debt was “waterboarding” his five grandchildren. “I have instructed my staff to clear my schedule for every minute that bill is on the floor.”

The Sanders single payer provision is a “message amendment” that has no chance of passing, but it’s what some left-wingers consider ideal health care reform, which also makes it an ideal target for GOP obstructionism. The clerk started reading the amendment at 12 p.m. EST and is now on page 40. Guesses on when the Senate might get back to regular business?