On Wednesday, as the U.S. Senate continued to debate a potential overhaul of the American health care system, the Republican party made its strategy clear: it’s going to talk the bill to death.
Up until yesterday, the tactic was executed in a relatively polite fashion. Republican Senators took to the floor and spoke at length about their objections. The bill broke President Obama’s promise to not raise taxes for the middle class. It would add to the deficit. It would give the government too much power. It would irreparably harm Medicare.
But Wednesday, as the media reported that public support for the health overhaul was slipping (here and here), the GOP smelled blood in the water. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced an amendment to establish a single-payer system. Everyone knew it would be voted down. But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) saw an opportunity.
He requested that the amendment, all almost-800-pages, be read aloud by the clerk of the Senate. Request granted. Three hours into what was estimated to be a 10-12-hour reading, Sen. Sanders withdrew his amendment.
Having made the point, the Republicans signaled that they were likely to insist on a reading of the “manager’s amendment” likely to be introduced today or on Friday by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). That overarching package, which will attempt to contain all the remaining details of health reform, could run to 1,000 pages or more.
Thus, a reading could take a day, or longer. Republicans argue that Americans — and legislators — have a right to know every single line of the package. Democrats have promised a 72-hour review period.
The Republicans seem to be gambling that by talking, talking some more, and then talking some more they’ll come out looking like the voice of reason. That it’s a cheap way to accomplish the goal — whether it’s foiling the Democrats’ stated Christmas deadline for passage, or scrapping the bill altogether.
But is that what America’s Republicans really want? Will the gamble cost them more than they think?
Polling data indicates that, as of now, Americans are about evenly split on which party they’d like to control Congress after the elections in 2010.
— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)