Coburn warns against majority-vote tactic in weekly Republican address

Should Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to pass healthcare reform, it would fly in the face of public opinion, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in the Republicans’ weekly address.

Coburn, a physician who attended this week’s bipartisan healthcare summit at the White House, repeated Republican calls to scrap the current healthcare proposals and start from scratch.

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“Unfortunately, even before the summit took place the majority in Congress signaled its intent to reject our offers to work together,” he said. “Instead they want to use procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year.”

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress have said that they will move forward with their existing reform proposals despite Republican calls to stop.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not yet said whether or not he will use the maneuver that would allow Democrats to get around a GOP filibuster of the healthcare reform bill.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that Obama will unveil the way he would like to proceed next week but did not say whether or not the White House would endorse the controversial use of the reconciliation tactic.

At the healthcare summit, Obama hinted at its use, saying that the public wants a majority vote on the proposals.

Coburn said that while the summit was not a waste of time, Republican claims often fell upon deaf ears.

“While we listened to one another, I’m concerned that the majority in Congress is still not listening to the American people on the subject of healthcare reform,” he said. “By an overwhelming margin, the American people are telling us to scrap the current bills, which will lead to a government takeover of healthcare, and we should start over.”

Despite Coburn’s staunch position against the Democrats’ health plans, he earned praise at the summit from members of the other party such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for offering “positive ideas.”

Coburn highlighted one of his healthcare proposals in his address, the Patients’ Choice Act he introduced with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)

“Our proposals to rein in the massive amount of fraud, waste and duplication in our healthcare system drew widespread praise from Democrats at the summit, including the president,” he said. “Democrats and Republicans agree that eliminating waste and inefficiency would lower costs and improve access tomorrow."

But Coburn said that lawmakers would not be able to capitalize on areas of bipartisan agreement if the Democrats move ahead with their plan, even though Democrats have said that they have adopted more than 100 GOP amendments to their bills.

“If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected,” Coburn said.

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