With Democrats closing in on passing a Senate health care bill, Republicans are upping the obstruction--and they're playing chicken with U.S. troops to do so.
Way back on December 2nd, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) filed a single-payer amendment to the Senate health care bill, which was supposed to come up for a vote this afternoon. But at the last moment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), at the behest Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), demanded that the entire 700-plus page amendment be read aloud on the floor. That's happening now.
Under normal circumstances, this would be a 10 or 12 hour dilatory tactic. But not today. Today, Democrats were planning to file for cloture on the Defense Appropriations bill, in order to get it passed by Friday before midnight when department funding runs out. If the entire amendment is read aloud, it's likely that the Senate won't be able to pass the defense bill until Saturday at the earliest, and would have to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep money flowing.
"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, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
For their part, Republicans aren't exactly being coy about what their play is.
"We're doing everything we can to stop this bill," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told reporters this afternoon.
We'll let you know if the reading gets interrupted, and the Senate returns to normal business. But the GOP seems pretty serious about derailing the health care bill by any means necessary.