The Washington Times - December 16, 2009, 05:50PM

*updated 12/17/09

Senator Jim DeMint (R - S.C.) had no regrets with the GOP’s strategy today, when Senator Tom Coburn (R - OK) asked for Senator Bernie Sanders (I - VT) seven hundred and sixty-seven page single payer health care amendment be read by the clerk. The reading of the amendment could have lasted until Saturday, but Senator Sanders put a stop to the reading of his massive amendment at almost three ‘o clock this afternoon, but it seems as if a parliamentary procedure may have been broken in the process.


When Mr. Sanders called to withdraw his amendment during the clerk’s reading, Mr. Coburn objected, but the parliamentarian recognized Mr. Sanders nonetheless and ignored Mr. Coburn.

According to Senate procedures, “Under Rule 15, paragraph 1, and Senate precedents, an amendment shall be read by the clerk before it is up for consideration or before the same shall be debated unless a request to waive the reading is granted”.

It continues, ‘the reading of which may not be dispensed with, except by unanimous consent, and if the request is denied, the amendment must be read and further interruptions are not in order.’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R - KY) office sent out a statement saying,:

“You may have heard that the majority cites an example in 1992 where the chair made a mistake and allowed something similar to happen.  But one mistake does not a precedent make.

For example, there is precedent for a Senator being beaten with a cane here in the Senate. If mistakes were the rule, the caning of Senators would be in order. Fortunately for all of us, it is not.”

Senator DeMint told the Washington Times about the GOP’s motivation to start using this type of parliamentary strategy has more to do with no longer being able to work with the Democrats in good faith. The Senator from South Carolina also points out that the parliamentarian was “clearly bias.” if not in the Democrats’ “back pocket” in allowing the interruption of the amendment’s reading.:

“The lines between the parties have gotten very clear over the last few months and its not just health care, climate change, the financial takeover, its card check. It’s this very liberal agenda that has ordinary Americans engaged and angry. We see wide swings in the polls with not just Republicans but with Independents and Democrats, and so I think its really important for Republicans to have a lot of clarity in what we say. We don’t want to be obstructionists on any policy they’re willing to deal with fairly, but no one can say that this is a fair process, when they basically have a parliamentarian in their back pocket.”

“The problem we have, I think if you look at the last couple of weeks, we were working in good faith and the strategy they were using was one of bait switch. While we were debating a decoy on the floor, while they were developing another one in secret, so to continue to play along with this as if it’s a legitimate process makes no sense. So the strategy now has to be we make sure we slow things down enough that we can actually have a chance to find out what’s in this final bill, and they’re trying to push it up against Christmas, so they can pass it when nobody is paying attention, but what we have to do is push it past Christmas, so people know what’s happening. It’s a waste of time to work with people in good faith who don’t even have the real bill on the floor.”

Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D -NJ) both accused the GOP for holding up defense appropriations and unemployment benefits by having the clerk read Mr. Sanders’s amendment today. Mr. Menendez compared the GOP’s tactics today to that of Ebenezer Scrooge. Senator DeMint responded that the Democrats had not brought the bill up yet.:

“We’re not holding it up. They were trying to pack it all together and hide the debt limit in it and use their legislative extortion to take all of this trash and hook it up with defense authorization and force us to vote for it. They’re not paying for this. I think this is another $17 billion unpaid for and again with Christmas season with no real transparency and they’re trying to cram in at the end. I just think that Americans have lost faith with this process. If there’s anybody delivering lumps of coal, it’s Harry Reid this year and the President.”

Debate on the health care bill continues tomorrow.