GOP Senator Pens Obstruction Manual For Health Care

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sen. Judd Gregg, (R-NH) has penned the equivalent of an obstruction manual -- a how-to for holding up health care reform -- and has distributed the document to his Republican colleagues.

Insisting that it is "critical that Republican senators have a solid understanding of the minority's rights in the Senate," Gregg makes note of all the procedural tools the GOP can use before measures are considered, when they come to the floor and even after passage.

He highlights the use of hard quorum calls for any motion to proceed, as opposed to a far quicker unanimous consent provision. He reminds his colleagues that, absent unanimous consent, they can force the Majority Leader to read any "full-text substitute amendment." And when it comes to offering amendments to the health care bill, the New Hampshire Republican argues that it is the personification of "full, complete, and informed debate," to "offer an unlimited number of amendments -- germane or non-germane -- on any subject."

The details of Gregg's outline are a clear reflection of the extent to which Republicans are turning to the Byzantine processes of the Senate chamber as a means of holding up reform. And doing so with eagerness. Take for instance, the section on offering a "point of order."

"A Senator may make a point of order at any point he or she believes that a Senate procedure is being violated, with or without cause," he writes. "After the presiding officer rules, any Senator who disagrees with such ruling may appeal the ruling of the chair--that appeal is fully debatable. Some points of order, such as those raised on Constitutional grounds, are not ruled on by the presiding officer and the question is put to the Senate, then the point of order itself is fully debatable. The Senate may dispose of a point of order or an appeal by tabling it; however, delay is created by the two roll call votes in connection with each tabling motion (motion to table and motion to reconsider that vote)."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office pounced on such a vivid example of Republican instransigence. "Just in time for the holidays, here it is in black and white, the Republicans' manual for stall, stop and delay," said Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman. "And what do the American people get? -- higher costs and less coverage. What kind of present is that?"

Even if health care is passed out of the Senate, Gregg has outlined ways in which Republicans can slow its passage.

"The Senate must pass 3 separate motions to go to conference: (1) a motion to insist on its amendments or disagree with the House amendments; (2) a motion to request/agree to a conference; and (3) a motion to authorize the Chair to appoint conferees. The Senate routinely does this by UC [unanimous consent], but if a Senator objects the Senate must debate each step and all 3 motions may be filibustered (requiring a cloture vote to end debate)."

Considering the already lethargic pace of health care reform, this is an illuminating reminder of how Republican's are putting their energy into dragging out the process rather than affecting the legislation.


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