The GOP mantra, repeated at Tea Parties all summer, was that lawmakers and voters ought to "read the bill" in order to truly understand the many ills of health care reform.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), on Wednesday, did his part to help out those who can't read legislation themselves, and asked the Senate clerk to read a single-payer amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders out loud on the Senate floor. The reading of the 767-page amendment is expected to take about 12 hours. [UPDATE: Several hours into the reading, Sanders took the Senate floor and withdrew his amendment.]
Sanders, an independent from Vermont, first filed his amendment on December 2, so the GOP has indeed had two weeks to read it.
By jamming up Senate business, Coburn's move prevents a vote on a funding bill for the Department of Defense. The current funding provision expires at midnight on Friday.
Coburn said he was doing Americans a favor. "I admire Senator Sanders for his willingness to fight for publically [sic] what many advocate only privately -- a single payer health care system funded and controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington. Every American should listen to the reading of this amendment and pay careful attention to its vote tally," Coburn said in a statement.
"The American people deserve to understand the competing approaches to reform in the U.S. Senate. It's unfortunate that Senator Reid waited until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it through the Senate. This reading will provide a dose of transparency that has been lacking in this debate."
The group, "Senate Doctors," a Republican coalition of lawmakers with medical backgrounds, re-tweeted that Coburn was "a rockstar."
Senate Democrats are powerless to prevent the full reading of the amendment due to parliamentary rules. And they don't appreciate the favor. "The only thing that Sen. Coburn's stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the DoD appropriations bill that funds our troops -- not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No," said Jim Manley, senior communications adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Coburn has a long and unapologetic career of standing in the way of Senate business.
Sanders provided a summary of his amendment to colleagues: "This amendment would establish a single payer health insurance system that would cover every person legally residing in the United States. The single payer system would be regulated and funded by the federal government through a payroll tax and an income tax, but it would be administered by the states. It would replace the coverage and revenue titles of the current bill, but it would leave in place most of the provisions in the quality, prevention, and workforce titles of the bill. This amendment starts from the premise that health care is a human right, and that every citizen, rich or poor, should have access to health care, just as every citizen has access to the fire department, the police, or public schools."