Durbin, Menendez: Bill reading could threaten defense spending, unemployment insurance

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) blasted Senate Republicans on Wednesday for threatening the chamber's ability to pass a defense spending bill on time.

The chamber's second most-powerful Democrat predicted a reading of that spending resolution -- as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) demanded of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) single-payer healthcare proposal this afternoon -- could keep the bill from clearing the Senate by Saturday.

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That means money could run out for troops abroad, delaying equipment purchases and a proposed military pay increase, and further postpone another extension of unemployment benefits, the senator explained.

"This is no accident, and this is no decision by one Republican from Oklahoma," Durbin told reporters, before learning Sanders had withdrawn his amendment. It is unclear whether the day's dispute could still threaten the Defense bill.

"How in the world can we in good conscience do this at this time of year?" Durbin added.

Republicans have stressed since the healthcare debate began this summer that Senate Democrats were moving too fast for their own good. Many in the GOP have even acknowledged they were actively trying to slow down debate -- a strategy Democrats said comes at the expense of voters.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), speaking alongside Durbin, repeated that line on Wednesday, noting that Coburn's tactic was merely a microcosm of a larger GOP strategy to set Democrats up for failure.

"It's become very clear to me, as it should be clear to just about everyone, that everything they're doing has nothing to do, nothing to do, with helping Americans get affordable healthcare or get jobs, but everything to do, everything to do, with winning the next election," Menendez said. "The Republicans have decided their road to electoral victory in 2010 and to poise themselves 2012 is for this president and this Congress to fail."

"If the tables were turned, Republicans would vilify Democrats as un-American, un-patriotic, un-Democratic. They would wave the flag, and claim they were the true patriots," he added, comparing the GOP's behavior to that of Ebeneezer Scrooge. "Well this time, they are not. They are playing politics in its worst form, plain and simple."