By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 10/14/2009 11:03:18 AM ET 2009-10-14T15:03:18

Claim: Democrats would punish any Democratic senators who support a Republican effort to block a final vote on the health overhaul.

The votes of three-fifths of the senators are required to end debate on a bill and proceed to a final vote. Republicans may try to block a final vote on the health insurance bill by using extended debate, or filibuster. A group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is urging Senate Democratic leaders to punish any Democratic senators who vote against ending debate. The proposed punishment: stripping any Democrat who votes for a filibuster of his or her chairmanship of a Senate committee.

Fact or fiction?
Unclear. The targets of the effort to punish any pro-filibuster Democrats are senators such as Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, who opposes a government-run public plan. Last year, some Democrats wanted to strip Sen. Joe Lieberman of his committee chairmanship for supporting GOP presidential candidate John McCain, but Democratic senators voted to let Lieberman keep his post. According to the Senate historian Donald Ritchie, the last time a committee chairman was stripped of his chairmanship was in 1924. Republican senators voted to punish three chairmen: Robert LaFollette, who'd run in 1924 as the Progressive candidate for president against Republican Calvin Coolidge, and two other chairmen who’d supported LaFollette instead of Coolidge.

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