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GOP Tries To Stall Health Care Debate

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's David Welna has this update on the health care saga's increasingly fractious endgame.

DAVID WELNA: Senate Chaplain Barry Black had his work cut out for him this morning trying to inspire civility among battling senators.

BLOCK: Lord help them to relinquish any negative thoughts to you, and receive a fresh infusion of your hope.

WELNA: Or perhaps hope against hope. The Senate's only declared socialist, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, finally got his chance today to offer an amendment, a measure extending Medicare coverage to everyone.

SIEGEL: I will be offering on the floor of the Senate, I believe for the first time in history, a national single payer program and I look forward to getting a vote on that. I am not naive. I know that we will lose that vote.

WELNA: Things proceeded at least initially as they usually do with a new amendment, with the clerk reading it and its sponsor asking that the reading be dispensed with.

U: Strike line six and all that follows to the end and insert the following...

SIEGEL: ...have amendment be considered as read.

SIEGEL: President, I object.

U: Objection.

SIEGEL: I object.

U: Objection is heard.

WELNA: That was Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn objecting, which every senator has the right to do, but hardly ever does. Sanders was clearly bewildered.

SIEGEL: I ask my friend from Oklahoma why he is objecting?

SIEGEL: Regular order, Mr. President.

WELNA: And regular order, in this case, was the reading of the nearly 800 pages in Sanders' amendment, a task that would take at least 10 hours. Asked outside the Senate chamber why he was insisting on this, Coburn simply shrugged.

SIEGEL: We are going to understand what single payer is all about. We're going to read the bill.

WELNA: Hours later, Dick Durbin, the Senate's number two Democrat, called a news conference to denounce what he called Republican efforts to kill the health care bill.

SIEGEL: I have in my hand a smoking tweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: From Senator Jim DeMint - tweeted the following: if Reid won't slow down this debate, we will do it for him. End of tweet.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

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