Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) didn't certainly mince words in his description of the healthcare reform bill being considered by the Finance Committee this morning.

"This is a stunning assault on liberty," Kyl said during his opening statement on the first day of the committee's mark up of a bill authored by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Kyl based his comment mainly on the fact that the bill would require most people to obtain some form of healthcare coverage or face a tax penalty (with some exceptions for financial hardship). New federal

insurance regulations would give Washington too much control over people's choice of plans, Kyl also contended.

Republican criticisms of the so-called individual mandate are relatively new to the debate but several GOP senators, including ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa), raised civil-libertarian critiques of the policy during their opening statements. "These provisions trample on the freedoms of Americans," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.).

Proponents of the individual mandate maintain that healthcare costs across the board can best be reduced by getting everyone into the insurance pool and spreading the risk throughout society. President Barack Obama campaigned in opposition to such a mandate but shifted after the election, saying he could support the policy if it included exceptions for people who could not afford plans.