Coburn Amendments Aim to Put Democrats in a Pickle

Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:40pm

Updated: 7:51 p.m.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) unveiled eight amendments he will offer to the health care reconciliation bill, and many of them may prove tough for Democrats to vote against.

With Senate Democratic leaders urging their rank and file to oppose all amendments during the debate, Republicans are seeking to make Democrats take politically difficult votes while also seeking to mitigate what Republicans believe are flaws in the health care reform bill.

Coburn’s first amendment deals with the politically sensitive topic of sex offenders. His proposal would ban insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for child molesters, rapists and other sex offenders.

“The creation of [insurance] exchanges could allow sex offenders to receive taxpayer-funded Viagra and other ED drugs unless Congress expressly prohibits this action,” states a release that accompanied Coburn’s amendment announcement.

Coburn also has an amendment designed to prohibit the federal government from discriminating against hospitals, doctors or insurance providers that decline to offer abortions or abortion coverage.

Other Coburn amendments would require federal agency workforces to remain static; eliminate a new program to promote personal financial responsibility; strike the ability of the Health and Human Services Department to draft rules and regulations regarding the new law; seek to ensure that people in the individual insurance market can continue their current coverage; exempt latex gloves, band-aids and other Class I medical devices from a new tax; and increase the ability of the government to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.

Coburn also plans to offer a motion to send the bill back to the Finance Committee so it can report a bill that narrowly adheres to President Barack Obama’s campaign promises. The amendment language actually quotes Obama in saying health care reform would not raise taxes “one penny” on families making $250,000 or less. The amendment also would attempt to ensure that any future health care negotiations be broadcast on C-SPAN, per Obama’s earlier pledge.

Senate Democrats dismissed Coburn’s proposals.

“This is typical Republican ridiculousness — making a mockery of the legislative process and denying critical benefits to communities across the country, including seniors hoping to afford their prescription drugs, just for a cheap political stunt,” one Senate Democratic aide said.