WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans want to spend weeks debating the health care bill, but they didn’t want to spend days next week having the 2,074-page document read aloud, as U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn had threatened. Though Coburn had to drop that plan, the Oklahoma Republican said he still plans to post a section-by-section explanation of the legislation on his Senate Web site. If the health care debate lasts for weeks in the Senate, there could still be opportunities for Coburn, R-Tulsa, or other Republicans to insist on a lot of reading aloud. Coburn said in an interview last week that he plans to be on the Senate floor fighting to change the Democrats’ health insurance reform legislation, though he predicted Democrats ultimately will prevail in votes. "I think they’re going to win,” he said. But if Democrats are going to score a victory, Republicans want to make them work hard for it. "Be prepared to debate the health care bill for a very, very long time,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said on the Senate floor last week. Coburn had been planning for weeks to require that the entire bill be read aloud on the Senate floor. Reading bills is routinely waived, without objection, but Coburn had vowed publicly to insist on a page-by-page recitation. It was expected to take somewhere between 35 and 50 hours to read the entire bill. But Coburn switched gears at the behest of his Republican colleagues because of the complex procedural and political maneuvering in the early rounds of the fight. Because Coburn had telegraphed his pledge to have the bill read, Democratic senators accused Republicans of obstructionism and suggested last week that Coburn was going to wear out the Senate employees who would have had to read the bill. "Believe it or not, they are going to require us — these wonderful clerks who work up here — they are going to require them to stand up for 50 hours and read that bill on the floor,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. "The normal thing we do to get to something is we waive the reading. But they are going to require it ... I cannot understand that.” In an interview, Coburn said his intent was for him and some of his colleagues to read the bill — not Senate employees — and explain some of the provisions as they went along. "My (Republican) conference as a whole did not think that was a good thing to do,” Coburn said. Abandoning the plan to have the bill read meant that the Senate didn’t have to be in town next week for a second procedural vote after the first test vote on Saturday. But a long debate will mean several amendments and opportunities to insist that those be read in their entirety. Among the possible amendments is Coburn’s own health insurance bill, which he authored with Burr. That plan would use tax credits and subsidies to encourage private coverage for the uninsured, while abolishing the portion of Medicaid that covers health care for the poor. Whether he and his colleagues choose to read it aloud remains to be seen.
"I think they’re going to win.”
Sen. Tom Coburn said about the health care reform bill