GOP blocks Senate actions

Republicans on Wednesday blocked Senate committees from conducting hearings after 2 p.m., invoking a rarely-used rule to express their anger at the health care overhaul legislation.

It was the second day Republicans stopped committee work as the health care overhaul’s reconciliation bill works its way through the Senate.

Senate rules require unanimous agreement to conduct committee hearings after 2 p.m., a request that is almost always granted without objection. But the intensely partisan health debate has changed that as multiple hearings have had to be cancelled in the past two days.

A Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with three military commanders who had flown into Washington from Korea and Hawaii had to be cancelled.

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“They’ve been scheduled for a long time. They’ve come a long, long distance,” said Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the committee.

Mr. Levin said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the committee, supported the request to let the hearing proceed. Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, objected to the request on the Senate floor, but said he did it for an unnamed colleague.

The move has been used before, by both sides, to display their displeasure with policy.

Democrats said it was yet another example of Republican obstructionism.

“So let me get this straight: in retaliation for our efforts to have an up-or-down vote to improve health care reform, Republicans are blocking an Armed Services committee hearing to discuss critical national security issues among other committee meetings?,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

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