Congress: Filibuster Frenzy
Congress: Filibuster Frenzy
This week, a bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to restore the right of habeas corpus to detainees, grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress, and mandate that U.S. troops receive at least as much time at home as they are deployed.
|SEPTEMBER 21, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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This week, a bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to restore the right of habeas corpus to detainees, grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress, and mandate that U.S. troops receive at least as much time at home as they are deployed. But facing strong opposition from the White House, the measures narrowly fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican leadership’s filibusters and will not move forward. Instead, conservatives spent the week defending the Bush administration and condemning a New York Times ad. The media largely billed the defeats as Senate “rejections” of the measures, failing to highlight the conservative obstruction.
‘STAY THE COURSE, PART 2’: Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel’s (R-NE) amendment to the Defense Authorization Act would have mandated “that home leaves for troops last as long as their deployments.” The White House promised to veto the measure — viewed as one of the “best opportunities” for war critics “to change policy” in Iraq — and exerted heavy pressure on Sen. John Warner (R-VA) to switch his July vote for the bill and vote against it. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 56-44 for the measure, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican leadership’s filibuster. After the vote, Hagel decried his colleagues’ weakness in failing to confront the Bush administration, stating, “It’s stay the course, Part 2.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised to “not yield” to the Republican leadership by “cutting short the war debate,” and yesterday brought forward his proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), which would have cut off funds for combat in Iraq by June 2008. While this legislation failed, the Senate today plans to revisit the Levin-Reed amendment, which “would set a timetable for withdrawing troops.” “Compromise,” said Reid, does not mean giving up “our principles. Our principle is that we need to change the course of the war in Iraq, not have an amendment that we say could pass [with] bipartisan [support].” In July, the Levin-Reed amendment received 52 votes, but also failed to overcome the Republican filibuster.
SUPPRESSING THE MAJORITY: Other legislation with bipartisan support met similar opposition from the White House and the Republican leadership this week. The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, which would have restored the right of habeas corpus to detainees charged as “enemy combatants,” received a 56-43 vote. A bill that would have given the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress for the first time in its 206-year history fell just three votes short of invoking cloture, with a 57-42 vote. “For the first time in 30 years, we secured the vote of a strong majority of Senators in favor of DC voting rights,” said Ilir Zherka of DC Vote. “We are outraged that a minority of Senators, led by Senators Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott, prevented the majority from voting on our bill.”
‘A COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME’: To appear as if it were doing something to address the war in Iraq this week, conservatives — led by Warner and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — introduced a toothless, watered-down version the Webb dwell-time amendment. Warner and McCain put together a “sense of the Senate” amendment to express “very clearly that we all want all our troops home and we understand the stress and strain that’s been inflicted on the men and women in the military and the guard and reserves.” But their real intentions were to kill the Webb amendment. As Webb responded, the troops need the “will of Congress,” not the “sense of Congress.” Similarly, the Senate spent over an hour yesterday on Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) bill criticizing MoveOn.org’s Gen. David Petraeus ad in the New York Times. The “sense of the Senate” resolution “strongly” condemned the “personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus.” But Cornyn’s resolution has no bearing on the course in Iraq. Ironically, the conservative senators who yesterday voted for Cornyn’s resolution earlier chastised the Senate for debating such bills. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), for example, blasted an all-night Iraq debate as “a colossal waste of time.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the vote of no confidence on Alberto Gonzales “a meaningless resolution giving the president advice about who the attorney general ought to be.”
FILIBUSTER HYPOCRISY: Approximately “1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes,” noted a July McClatchy report. “If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002.” McConnell has vigorously defended holding up legislation, stating, “The suggestion that it’s somehow unusual in the Senate to have controversial matters decided by 60 votes is absurd on its face.” Yet this same Republican leadership decried the use of the filibuster during the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees, threatening to employ the drastic parliamentary maneuver known as the “nuclear option,” which would have prohibited filibusters. In 2003, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) threatened, “[Filibustering] is wrong. It’s not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I’m perfectly prepared to blow the place up.”
“Government Accountability Office employees on Wednesday, for the first time in the agency’s history, voted to form a labor union.”
IOWA: Environmentalists claim that “Iowa’s environmental agency has failed to adequately protect the state’s residents and waterways for more than three decades.”
CALIFORNIA: State whistleblowers “have uncovered a raft of waste and misconduct in recent months” within government.
MINNESOTA: “Get ready for another marriage amendment push” from the right wing.
THINK PROGRESS: Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA): conservatives falsely hyped terror threat against U.S. Capitol to pass FISA expansion.
RISING HEGEMON: Conservatives complaining about criticism of Gen. David Petraeus today had no problem attacking generals in 2004.
CROOKS AND LIARS: In a special comment, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann slams the Senate vote yesterday condemning MoveOn.org.
THE CRYPT: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) call for congressional investigations into the Jena 6 case.
“You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a ‘B’ in Econ 101.”
“President Bush as an undergraduate at Yale did not in fact receive a grade of B in his economics course. Bush received a grade that would correspond with a C-.”
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