Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Republican Senators Block Iraq War Debate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has really tried to begin the 110th Congress with a degree of bipartisanship never shown to Democrats when they were in the minority and has now found that he needs to relegate his attempts to the "no good deed goes unpunished" file.

And I'm sure Reid thought that a bipartisan resolution against the Bush-McCain Doctrine of escalating the Iraq war would be a slam dunk, given that the majority of the American people want no part of that plan and many Republican Senators had quickly stepped up to express their skepticism or outright disapproval.

What happened procedurally on the Senate floor Monday can get a bit confusing -- which plays into the Republicans hands as they now try to avoid debating the Iraq war at every turn -- but when you break it down it really becomes quite simple.

The new Democratic Senate, with cooperation from Republicans such as Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and John Warner (R-VA) immediately set out in January to debate some form of resolution to let the White House know that the Senate disapproves of the plan to send 20,000 to 40,000 more troops into Iraq.

Democrats and Republicans came up with their own, separate resolutions and, after a bit of haggling and finding common ground, settled on the resolution put together by Warner and Carl Levin (D-MI), which was to begin debate Monday.

Everyone agreed. It was all set -- until yesterday, when Senate Republicans showed up for work with a bad hangover, which obviously came from a few days of heavy arm twisting by the White House. This made them decide that they might not have the stomach to actually debate sending more American troops to die for nothing in Iraq and thus started a GOP filibuster to stop all debate.

"For the republicans now, in their minority status, to put a stop to this debate, is to try to put a stop to a debate that's going on across America," said Durbin on the Senate floor. "I will tell them this: They may succeed today, but they won’t succeed beyond today. There will be a debate on this war. It may not be this week. It may not be this bill. It may not be this resolution. But there will be a debate because the American people made it clear in the last election that it is time for a new direction."

Republicans succeeded in blocking debate on the Iraq war by filibustering a "motion to proceed" to debate on the Warner-Levin amendment. That motion failed 49-47, with 60 votes needed to move forward.

Reid and Senate Democrats must now decide how to respond and whether its time to drop any attempt to behave in a bipartisan way with Republicans and just fight them tooth and nail on this.

"Let's make no mistake about what's happening today. The Republican side is afraid to debate even a non-binding resolution as to whether this Senate supports an escalation or not," said Chuck Schumer (D-NY). "This is a filibuster so that we cannot debate the war in Iraq. The lack of debate on this war, in this Senate in this administration and in this country has led to the muddled debacle that we are now in, where 70 percent of the people don’t support this war."

Cynical little devils that they are, Senate Republicans know that all they have to do is stall a few days because Harry Reid has a freight train rushing at him in the form of a continuing resolution which must be passed by February 15 to keep the government running. A $463.5 billion continuing resolution to cover the cost of running the government for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year passed the House last week and now comes to the Senate, where Republicans hope they can use it to stall the Iraq war debate even more.

Majority Leader Reid made it clear on Monday that, by filibustering debate on Iraq, Republicans are effectively voting for the unpopular policy of escalating the Iraq war.

"The president must hear from Congress, so he knows he stands in the wrong place — alone," said Reid.