Today Sen. Tom Coburn forced the reading of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s entire 767-page amendment to provide single-payer health care. This process would have taken some twelve hours at least. The Senate rule is that once the clerk starts reading the bill, no senator can stop the reading of that bill unless every senator agrees.
Somehow, though, the chair allowed Bernie Sanders to interrupt the reading and withdraw his amendment, which, under the rules, he should not have been allowed to do without unanimous consent. The reason the parliamentarian allowed the interruption was that he was relying on a similar incident in 1982 when the chair wrongly allowed an amendment to be withdrawn. Yet, as we know, two wrongs have never made a right.
In fact, as Senator McConnell explained on the floor of the Senate later that afternoon:
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,” he said, adding: “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.
This is a huge boon to Democrats who did not relish spending an entire day (or possibly two) reading the Sanders amendment to the American people.
The real story here, this miscarriage of justice in the Senate may just end up helping the Democrats squeeze passage of the health-care-reform bill before Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you, too!