WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn shut down Senate debate of sweeping health care legislation for nearly three hours Wednesday when he forced the reading of a lengthy amendment. Coburn, R-Muskogee, objected to a routine request to waive the reading of an amendment, forcing Senate clerks to read the document aloud. Typically, senators are allowed to explain their amendments in lieu of having them read in their entirety. The amendment was offered by Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and the aim was to establish a single-payer, or government-run, health care system in the United States. Under Sanders’ amendment, the nation’s Medicare program would have been extended to every U.S. citizen. Sanders withdrew his amendment about three hours into its reading and criticized Republicans for preventing a debate and vote on it. "That is an outrage!” he shouted. "In this moment of crisis, it is wrong to bring the United States government to a halt.” Sanders said he knew his amendment would have failed, but he predicted that the United States would eventually adopt a single-payer system. Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and the assistant majority leader, said it would have taken at least 10 hours to read Sanders’ 767-page amendment if Sanders hadn’t withdrawn it. Coburn’s move to force the reading came late Wednesday morning, after Montana Sen. Max Baucus declined to entertain Coburn’s motion to require that senators be given 72 hours to read amendments. Sanders tried to ask Coburn why he was forcing the reading, but Coburn insisted the amendment be read. Coburn had planned to force the reading of the entire health care bill — which is more than 2,000 pages long — when debate began three weeks ago, but other Senate Republicans persuaded him not to make that move. However, Coburn never promised that he wouldn’t force the reading of amendments. And he or other Republicans could use the tactic again to slow down President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority. Since Democratic leaders essentially are still writing the bill, they will have to introduce a major amendment when they get compromise language that can clear the legislation’s 60-vote hurdle. Coburn said Wednesday, "I admire Senator Sanders for his willingness to fight for publicly what many advocate only privately — a single-payer health care system funded and controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington.” Coburn said every American should listen to the reading of the amendment, but Durbin said he doubted many people would stay glued to their television sets during the three-hour reading. Durbin said the tactic employed Wednesday wasn’t the work of one senator from Oklahoma, and he blamed Senate Republican leaders for Coburn’s insistence that the amendment be read. "It proves they are so obsessed with killing health reform, they will go to extraordinary lengths,” Durbin said. On Tuesday, Coburn and other Republican lawmakers urged protesters at a Capitol Hill rally to work harder to defeat the bill, which Democratic leaders hope to get approved before Christmas. The House passed its own version of health reform last month.