Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

GOP crocodile tears over Iraq

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In particular, Chuck Hagel—brave, impassioned Republican opposing the war in Iraq—quietly toed the party line and voted to have no debate on the Iraq war. The Carpetbagger:

I have to admit, several Senate Republicans really had me going there. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) sounded sincere when he decried Bush’s escalation plan and said he’s at “the end of [his] rope.” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) seemed absolutely genuine when he expressed support for a resolution condemning escalation. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) appeared serious about his support for a compromise resolution expressing a no-confidence vote from the Senate.

But when push came to shove, nearly all of the Senate Republicans stuck together and refused to even debate escalation on the merits.

A long-awaited Senate showdown on the war in Iraq was shut down before it even started yesterday, when nearly all Republicans voted to stop the Senate from considering a resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 additional combat troops into battle.

A day of posturing, finger-pointing and backroom wrangling came to nothing when Democratic and Republican leaders could not reach agreement on which nonbinding resolutions would be debated and allowed to come to a vote…. Republicans insisted that the impasse will soon be broken. But the leaders of the two parties appeared to be far from a compromise last night, and the White House has worked hard to block action on a resolution disapproving of the president’s decision to boost troop levels.

“What you just saw was Republicans giving the president the green light to escalate in Iraq,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said after the vote. Reid contended that Republicans “are trying to avoid a debate on this matter.”

The vote was largely along party lines. All the real Dems voted to start the debate, and were joined by Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), both of whom are facing re-election next year. All the Republicans (plus Lieberman), voted not to have the debate at all. (John McCain, who recently announced that he would not support a GOP filibuster, did not vote yesterday.)

The procedural wrangling got a little complicated.

Josh Marshall had a fairly concise explanation, and since there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, here’s his take on what happened.

The Republicans main aim here was to prevent a no-confidence vote in the senate on the president’s war policy. They threatened a filibuster for a while until they finally came up with a rationale for the filibuster. And what they came up with was this …
There were three resolutions in play today. The Warner-Levin anti-surge resolution. The McCain-Graham-Lieberman pro-surge resolution. Then there was a third resolution offered by Sen. Judd Gregg. The key is the Gregg resolution. All the Gregg resolution really said was that it’s the Commander-in-Chief’s duty to assign military missions and the Congress’s duty to fund them. (Constitutionally, it’s a ridiculous claim. But let’s set that aside for the moment.)

Now, here’s the rub. The Democrats wanted them all to go to a simple majority vote. The Republicans wanted each to go to a 60+ filibuster-breaking vote.

How do the two thresholds shape the debate?

If each goes to a simple majority vote, the anti-surge resolution wins, the pro-surge resolution loses and the Gregg amendment probably wins too. But the headline is the repudiation of the president. The Gregg amendment is an afterthought.

However, if each resolution goes to a 60 vote test, the thinking was that both surge resolutions (pro and con) would fail. And only the Gregg amendment would win.

So opposition to the president would lose and the only winning amendment would be one that gets the senate on the record saying that Congress is obligated to fund whatever missions the president chooses.

The result was a rather bizarre dynamic. Republicans who said they wanted a debate ended up voting to prevent a debate. John Warner voted to shut down discussion of his own resolution. GOP senators like Hagel, who claim to have been chomping at the bit to formally criticize the escalation policy, fell obediently into line. Rank-and-file Republican senators took turns saying the resolution was too irrelevant to take seriously, and too serious to allow debate.

So, what’s next? Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are negotiating the procedural hurdles, and would reportedly like to iron out an agreement to hold a debate before tomorrow’s consideration of a huge budget bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The House, meanwhile, is poised to move forward with its own debate on its own version of a non-binding resolution.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” Reid said. “We are going to debate Iraq.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 February 2007 at 9:39 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Iraq War

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