So this week, the Senate was supposed to start debating health care reform, but arcane Senate rules are allowing Republicans to bring the Senate to a grinding halt. In fact, Senator Judd Gregg just sent out a memo to the Republicans with 15 parliamentary techniques that can be used to shut everything down.
The Republicans aren’t just obstructing the health care bill, they are obstructing the entire legislative process. They are even delaying votes on their own amendments. How can Republicans claim to be for health care reform when they won’t allow any debate at all to happen in the Senate? Their goal is to kill any reform at all, which is what the large insurance corporations want.
Remember back when the Democrats were in the minority, and the Republicans kept screaming that the Dems needed to allow an “up or down vote” on bills, including the Bush tax cuts in 2001? Or remember when the Democrats objected to using the budget reconciliation process (which only requires 51 votes) to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling? Back then Gregg called their objections “inappropriate” and said “We are using rules of the Senate here. Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.”
But now, Gregg is not so hot on “majority rules”. His memo says “We, 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 – as well as all legislation – coming before the Senate.” He even says that these parliamentary maneuvers are designed to “impede — if not actually stop — health care legislation.”
The “parliamentary maneuvers” Gregg is proposing include such obvious time wasters as requiring “hard” quorum calls, forcing the reading of legislation in its entirety, and offering “unlimited number of amendments — germane or non-germane — on any subject.”
At least it is now clear: if we don’t get health care reform, and people keep dying (45,000 a year) because of our horribly broken health insurance system, you know who to blame.
UPDATE: Majority Leader Harry Reid responds to Gregg’s memo.
[T]he Republican plan we’ve waited weeks and months to see [is] not even about health care at all. The first and only plan Senate Republicans could be bothered to write up is an instruction manual on how to bring the Senate to a screeching halt.