Coburn’s parliamentary maneuver

More local color from Dana Milbank:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) . . .went to the Senate floor just before noon Wednesday and asked Democrats to agree to an amendment to the health-care bill that "would certify that every member of the Senate has read the bill and understands it before they vote on the bill."

Understands it? Would there be a quiz? Would the exam be scored by the Congressional Budget Office? When Democrats understandably rejected this idea, Coburn responded with a parliamentary maneuver that stopped all action on the floor until the Senate clerk could read aloud every word of a 767-page amendment offered by [Sen. Bernie] Sanders [I-Vt].

"For purposes of section 1101(a)(5)(c)," read the clerk, "individuals described in this subsection are the following individuals . . ."

Sanders, purple in the face, beckoned furiously at Coburn, who smiled, winked and attended to his BlackBerry. “How long will it take?” Sanders asked a member of the floor staff.

She eyed the five-inch-tall printout of the amendment. “I don’t know — eight hours?” she answered.

One hundred thirty-nine pages and nearly three hours later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) surrendered. He waved Sanders into the cloakroom. A few minutes later, Sanders emerged on the Senate floor and withdrew his amendment calling for government-run health care.

“This is nothing more than an ongoing stalling tactic on the part of the Republicans,” Sanders complained of Coburn’s stunt.

Sanders’s complaint carried some irony, because he delivered it at a news conference he had called to explain why he had put a “hold,” or a delay of his own, on Obama’s renomination of Bernanke.