Iraq: Stand and Filibuster
Iraq: Stand and Filibuster
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced yesterday that the Senate will stay up all night tonight and force lawmakers to stand and debate a bill that provides a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.
|July 17, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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Stand and Filibuster
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced yesterday that the Senate will stay up all night tonight and force lawmakers to stand and debate a bill that provides a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. If conservatives refuse to allow a majority vote on Iraq redeployment legislation, “we will work straight through the night on Tuesday,” Reid said. Last week, Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a measure to begin redeployment from Iraq within 120 days of its passage, with a target end date of April 30, 2008. Senate Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (AZ) yesterday “formally registered” an objection to having a simple majority vote on the bill’s passage, forcing the Senate majority to overcome a 60-vote hurdle in order to beat back a potential filibuster. Three Republicans — Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — have indicated their public support for the Levin/Reed bill. Many of their colleagues on the right, while voicing support for withdrawal, have refused to turn their rhetoric into voting action. Reid said conservatives “are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end. They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops. They are denying us an up or down — yes or no — vote on the most important issue our country faces.”
HOW A FILIBUSTER WORKS: U.S. Senate rules provide an opportunity for lawmakers to engage in unlimited debate. “The term filibuster — from a Dutch word meaning ‘pirate’ — became popular in the 1850s, when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill.” To end debate, a Senator can file a cloture petition. “Cloture refers to the only procedure by which the Senate can place a time limit on debate, thus overcoming a threatened filibuster, and get to clarity. Cloture can only be achieved if three-fifths of the members of the Senate, normally 60 of them, vote for it.” The late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), “armed with throat lozenges and malted milk tablets,” held the Senate floor for more than 24 consecutive hours in an attempt to stop the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. John Nichols writes in The Nation, “Like the southern senators who filibustered against civil rights legislation in the 1950s,” those who choose to “rant on and on about how Congress cannot block the president’s war making will expose themselves…to the harsh light of day — and potentially to the harsh response of the voters in 2008″ if they filibuster the Levin/Reed bill. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said, “I believe on critical issues like the war, it’s time to make the Republicans stand on their feet and go through a traditional filibuster, so that the rest of the nation will understand…what they’re doing, who is obfuscating, who is creating impediment to changing the course of the war.”
SOME RECENT TACTICS: Appearing on the Young Turks radio show last week, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) explained that a Republican senator had recently told him the conservative leadership had adopted a strategy designed to “prevent any accomplishment” by the Democratic-held Congress. In the 109th Congress, conservatives used the filibuster to block the passage of a minimum wage increase, ethics reforms, comprehensive immigration reform, funding for renewable energy, and funding for the intelligence community, among a host of other popular legislative priorities. Many of these measures enjoy strong majority support. Last week, for instance, conservatives held up a measure offered by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) that would have required members of the Armed Forces deployed overseas to be given more rest at home. Webb’s amendment received a strong 56 votes, but not enough to kill the minority’s stranglehold on the bill’s passage. When asked if the majority should start forcing the minority to stand and physically filibuster these bills, Conrad responded, “Yeah, I think there’s a growing consensus that we ought to do that.”
CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRISY: Conservatives who are now fully embracing the filibuster as a tool to thwart passage of Iraq redeployment bills are the very same lawmakers who were calling for the “nuclear option” in 2005. At the time, Republicans held 55 seats in the Senate and were constantly voicing anger over the “obstructionism” of Democrats, who objected to the confirmation of a few right-wing judicial nominees. In 2005, the majority called for upending the practice of filibustering judicial appointments. Now, those same senators — who are currently in the minority — have been constantly deploying the threat of a filibuster. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) previously said the filibuster was “bad for the institution. It’s 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. No problem.” Now, Lott, along with Kyl, are using the filibuster to provide political cover for President Bush and prevent passage of legislation that retains the majority support of Americans.
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