COBURN SLAMS HIS FOOT ON THE BRAKE…. There was a point, about a month ago, in which Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) threatened to ignore institutional norms and force the reading of the entire health care bill, just to delay the process. Fortunately, he backed off.

But today, Coburn is playing these games again, and the consequences matter a great deal.

Senate Republicans fulfilled a threat on Wednesday to require chamber staffers to read Democrats’ healthcare amendments aloud on the floor of the Senate.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the floor to begin debate on his proposal to establish a single-payer healthcare system, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) interjected on behalf of his party, requesting Sanders’s 767-page amendment be read in full.

Although Sanders responded by asking the chairman to dispense of the reading, Coburn again objected, invoking regular order and forcing the Senate clerk to resume his daunting task.

It was supposed to be a productive day on the Senate floor. Coburn has instead brought the chamber to a halt until around midnight. (It’s a page out of Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) obstructionist manual.)

And here’s why it matters: the Senate leadership planned to file cloture on a Defense spending bill today, because existing troop funding expires Friday night. Coburn’s little stunt will cause delays that will push off the vote on the Pentagon spending bill, possibly to Saturday.

In an emailed statement, Harry Reid spokesperson Jim Manley said, “The only thing that Sen. Coburn’s stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the DoD appropriations bill that funds our troops — not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No.”

Coburn’s little stunt also delays the process on health care, and makes the Christmas deadline that much more difficult to reach.

More delays for the sake of delays — it’s pretty much all the GOP has to offer at this point.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.