Policy-ish

A Republican's Guide To Slowing The Senate Health Debate

Republicans aren't filibustering to block the Senate health overhaul bill just yet, or so they say. But when it comes to slowing things down, well, Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg of New Hampshire put together a handy how-to guide.

Sen. Judd Gregg i i

hide captionHold on just a minute, says Sen. Gregg.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sen. Judd Gregg

Hold on just a minute, says Sen. Gregg.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The GOP, as the minority party, "must use the tools we have under Senate rules to insist on a full, complete and fully informed debate on the health care legislation...." In a letter to his Republican colleagues, Gregg writes that they should be prepared to assert their claims to "certain rights before measures are considered on the floor as well as certain rights during the actual consideration of measures."

Of course, fully exercising those rights could bring the Senate to a standstill.

Among those rights, according to the letter which Politico posted here, are:

  • Reading amendments and conference reports from start to finish;
  • Allowing any senator to make a point of order, pretty much at any time for any reason; and,
  • Asking for "hard" quorum calls to establish whether enough senators are around to officially conduct business.

Democrats were not amused by the recipe for parliamentary molasses. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained that rather than offering their own health bill, "the first and only plan Senate Republicans bothered to draft is an instruction manual on how to bring the Senate to a screeching halt."

Added Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, "I presume that all Senators know the Senate rules already. So to send that letter to me, leaves the impression that that Senator would like to urge Senators to use some of those delaying tactics stated in that memo."

Meanwhile, the Senate is finally getting to votes on its first amendments on this, the fourth day of deliberations on the bill, which, Baucus noted, "even for the United States Senate, this is a slow pace."

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