THE PLANK NOVEMBER 18, 2009
As part of the Republican efforts to drag out the debate on health care reform bill, Senator Tom Coburn has been threatening to demand that Majority Leader Harry Reid schedule a full reading of his legislation before debate begins. Reid, in turn, is looking at alternatives, such as holding the Senate in session next week.
I'm sure most Democrats are hoping Coburn decides the effort is futile and abandons his quest, thus freeing everybody to go home Thanksgiving week. But whatever Coburn decides, I wonder if Democrats shouldn't embrace this opportunity--and make the most out of it. Why not read the bill, regardless of what Coburn demands, but delegate the task over to everyday Americans who have suffered because of the inadequacies of our health care system?
Senate rules would apparently forbid the Democrats from doing this in the chamber. (If Coburn follows through with his threat, some poor clerk would still have to do it there.) But there's no reason Democrats couldn't stage a public reading on the Capitol steps or some other nearby venue.
The guests wouldn't have to read the whole bill--just some key parts, perhaps corresponding to the problems they've experienced. Let somebody with a pre-existing condition read about the new requirements that insurers provide coverage to anybody. Let a small business owner read from the section on subsidies for small employers. Let somebody too poor to buy coverage now go through the subsidy scale. And so on.
Among other things, this might help remind everybody that there's a reason these bills are so long. They try to solve a wide range of problems--and do so in a responsible way.