Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry "Take No Prisoners" Reid

Although the right is doing its best to spin the all-nighter in the Senate as a miserable failure because the Democrats' cloture motion fell 8 votes short of the 60 needed to end the Republican filibuster, the truth is that Harry Reid won an important tactical victory by tabling the Defense Authorization Bill until the Republican minority stops obstructing the will of the people:

In an in-your-face response to Republicans continuing to block a full Senate vote on withdrawing American troops from Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just moments ago set aside the pending Defense Authorization Bill until the Senate's Republican leadership stops defying the will of the majority of Congress and the American people and allows votes on the Iraq occupation.

"This has been a long week and it is only Wednesday," said Reid on the Senate floor. "We have now been in session continuously for 2 days. On Monday I submitted a simple request for consent to proceed to an up or down vote on the Levin/Reed Amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. As I have stated, this amendment provides a clear, binding and responsible path to change the U.S. mission and reduce our combat presence in Iraq."

"Regrettably, Republicans chose to block this amendment. They chose to deny the American people an up or down vote on a bipartisan amendment. They chose to continue protecting their President instead of our troops – no matter the cost to our country."

Reid then laid out his next step: "Because Republicans continue to block votes on important amendments to the Defense Authorization bill, we can make no further progress on Iraq and this bill at this time."

Reid also cleverly anticipates Republican accusations that Democrats are "depriving the troops and not supporting them":
"And just to remind my Republican colleagues – even if this bill had passed yesterday, its provisions would not take effect until October.

Christy Hardin Smith explains further:
What Reid did was pull the Defense Authorization bill from the floor in its entirety. Because the budget items do not go into effect for the DoD until October for this particular appropriation, there is no question of this keeping money from the troops — and any Republican who says so is lying — let me just get that out there up front.

This is a pretty in-your-face procedural move from Reid — who gave the GOP leadership an opportunity to vote on all of the amendments up or down and, when they refused, Reid left the Grand Obstruction Party to stew in its own obstructionist failure. He’s left no cover for them or for the Bush Administration for continued stall and obstruct maneuvers on this — instead, the onus is on them to explain why their actions are focused on protecting the President’s flank, rather than on standing up for American soldiers and against more failed policies.

Greg Sargent highlights another key passage in Reid's announcement [bolds are Greg's]:
Reid said:
I have temporarily laid aside the Defense Authorization bill and have entered a motion to reconsider.

But let me be clear to my Republican colleagues – I emphasize the word "temporarily". We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq. We will do everything in our power to complete consideration of a Defense Authorization bill. We must do both.
So we will come back to this bill as soon as it is clear we can make real progress. To that end, I have asked the Democratic Whip and Democratic Manager of the bill to sit down with their counterparts to work on a process to address all outstanding issues related to this bill so the Senate can return to it as soon as possible.

What this means is this: Reid is basically saying he won't allow any votes on any other Iraq amendments -- not the toothless Warner-Lugar amendment, not the Ken Salazar amendment that would force adoption of the Baker-Hamilton plan, nothing -- until the GOP agrees to allow straight up or down votes.

Harold Meyerson has a particularly biting commentary on the Republican antics:
Anyone searching for the highest forms of invertebrate life need look no further than the floor of the U.S. Senate last week and this. These spineless specimens go by various names -- Republican moderates; respected senior Republicans; Dick Lugar, John Warner, Pete Domenici, George Voinovich.

They have seen the folly of our course in Iraq. The mission, they understand, cannot be accomplished. The Iraqi government, they discern, is hopelessly sectarian.

In wisdom, they are paragons. In action, they are nullities.

Perhaps they are simply farsighted. They have seen the problem with Nouri al-Maliki's administration in faraway Baghdad. They seem unable to see the problem with the Bush administration at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Lugars and the Warners seem to share with many of their Democratic colleagues a common assessment of our presence in Iraq: It has become an unfocused and costly occupation in a land beset by civil war. We should, in good order, pull back, leaving behind only what we need to deter jihadists who threaten us.

Problem is, the Warners and the Lugars don't actually want to act on their perception. They oppose the legislation by Democrats Carl Levin and Jack Reed that would require the administration to begin reducing our forces in Iraq within 120 days and to remove all but that anti-jihadist force by next April.

Instead, they have drafted legislation that would require the administration to draw up plans for a pullback -- but not to implement them. Indeed, they act continually as if George Bush and Dick Cheney are amenable to argument and open to facts. "I'm hopeful they'll change their minds," Domenici said last week after a meeting with national security adviser Stephen Hadley. "I think we should continue to ratchet up the pressure, in addition to our words," said Voinovich, "to let the White House know we are very sincere."

Very sincere -- now there's a threat that concentrates the mind. These Republicans who proclaim their independence without acting on it have failed to come to terms with the single most important reality confronting them: that Bush and Cheney will keep the war going until Congress forces them to stop.

Barbara O'Brien is amused by the righties' thought processes:
I do enjoy reading what the Right thinks about things. Spawn of Evil Jules Crittendon writes,
Given that the anti-war movement essentially doesn’t exist, except a few fringe groups and rather loud and eccentric individuals, with a majority in Congress that can’t even keep its anti-war faction on board for anti-war votes, the Big Sleepover is a bid to get a national be-in going. I can’t wait to see what C-Span viewership was.

Given the recent polls on Iraq, that’s one hell of a fringe. I just want to know how much bigger the “fringe” must be from the “center” before some people acknowledge it’s not a “fringe” any more.

No one expected the vote to succeed; the point was to force Republican Senators to put their votes where their mouths are. ...

And they didn't -- but that is also the point.

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