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February 5, 2007
GOP Blocks Cloture On Surge Resolution

The Republicans welcomed Harry Reid to Senate leadership today, filibustering the Warner-Levin amendment on the surge strategy in Iraq when Reid tried to push it through without allowing alternatives or amendments to come to the floor. The Democrats could not even get a majority to approve cloture, let alone the 60 votes needed, and Reid's efforts sank into failure -- at least for now:

Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed they would eventually find a way to force President Bush to change course in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.

"We must heed the results of the November elections and the wishes of the American people," said Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid, D-Nev., spoke moments before a vote that sidetracked a nonbinding measure expressing disagreement with Bush's plan to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. The 49-47 vote was 11 short of the 60 needed to go ahead with debate, and left the fate of the measure uncertain.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of Kentucky described the test vote as merely a "bump in the road" that could possibly be overcome within hours. GOP lawmakers "welcome the debate and are happy to have it," he said, adding they were insisting on equal treatment for an alternative measure expected to draw strong support.

The Republicans insisted that the debate on Iraq include two competing resolutions. The first, the McCain-Lieberman resolution, approves the surge strategy but establishes benchmarks with which to measure its success. The second, proposed by Judd Gregg, takes no position on the surge but instead declares that the Senate does not favor cutting off funding for the efforts in Iraq.

Reid and the Democrats insisted on blocking any consideration of alternatives and demanded an end to debate -- which makes Reid's complaint that the GOP would not allow debate on the issue somewhat mystifying. Cloture is an end to debate on the floor, a limitation to allow a vote on the question before the Senate. The filibuster provides for unlimited debate, which the Republicans appear ready to provide. Dick Durbin accused Republicans of running from the debate, but in truth the Democrats tried to shove Warner-Levin down the GOP's throat in order to demand that the US run from Iraq. It's a strange accusation to make that a political party exercises cowardice in not allowing the other to demand retreat -- a position that some Democrats clearly want to make.

Not Joe Lieberman, however. In a stirring speech to the Senate tonight, Lieberman made clear his distaste for the efforts to force a non-binding op-ed through the upper chamber:

For the Senate to take up a symbolic vote of no confidence on the eve of a decisive battle is unprecedented, but it is not inconsequential. It is an act which, I fear, will discourage our troops, hearten our enemies, and showcase our disunity. And that is why I will vote against cloture.

If you believe that General Petraeus and his new strategy have a reasonable chance of success in Iraq, then you should resolve to support him and his troops through the difficult days ahead. On the other hand, if you believe that this new strategy is flawed or that our cause is hopeless in Iraq, then you should vote to stop it. Vote to cut off funds. Vote for a binding timeline for American withdrawal. If that is where your convictions lie, then have the courage of your convictions to accept the consequences of your convictions. That would be a resolution.

The non-binding measure before us, by contrast, is an accumulation of ambiguities and inconsistencies. It is at once for the war but also against the war. It pledges its support to the troops in the field but also washes its hands of what they are doing. It approves more troops for Anbar but not for Baghdad.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot vote full confidence in General Petraeus, but no confidence in his strategy. We cannot say that the troops have our full support, but disavow their mission on the eve of battle. This is what happens when you try to wage war by committee. That is why the Constitution gave that authority to the President as Commander in Chief.

Lieberman joined the GOP in voting against cloture. Unfortunately, two Republicans failed to heed Lieberman's wisdom and voted to end debate and proceed to a vote on Warner-Levin. One, Susan Collins of Maine, could hardly have come as a surprise. However, Norm Coleman provided the other Republican vote for cloture, a deeply disappointing development for our Senator who has been so stalwart on the war.

Coleman has been open about his opposition to the surge, at least as it pertains to Baghdad, and was widely expected to vote in favor of the Warner-Levin resolution if it reached the floor. However, the bill does not distinguish between the surge in Baghdad and Anbar, opposing as it does the entire "`plan' to augment our forces by 21,500" (the word plan is offset in scare quotes in the Warner-Levin text); Coleman has gone on record in support of the Anbar surge. On that basis, I would have hoped that Coleman would have demanded a rewording of the text, which then inexplicably demands "vigorous" operations in Baghdad. I would also have expected Coleman to recognize the hypocrisy of the Senate leadership demands for debate while seeking to limit it and to limit the consideration of alternatives.

Instead, Coleman sided with the railroading Reid and the effort to send a vote of no-confidence as our troops begin their mission. It's highly disappointing, and Coleman needs to explain himself if he expects us to take him seriously on this question in the future. (via NZ Bear)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 5, 2007 8:06 PM

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» Round One To The Republicans from Scottish Right
I'm heartened to see that the Republican Caucus largely held together against the Warner-Levin resolution. Interestingly, Senator Warner himself voted against it, perhaps so he could have an "I was for it before I was against it" argument to take befo... [Read More]

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» Hell Freezes Over: The Republicans Act Like, Well from The Virtuous Republic
Satan was sure that the Warner/Levin bill would proceed unobstructed through the Senate. Satan based this assumption on the belief that the Republicans would abandon the sinking presidential ship of state like the rats they are. Instead, the Repu... [Read More]

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» Well, We Know That Isn’t True from Blue Crab Boulevard
The Associated Press is at it again: Republicans block Senate debate on Iraq WASHINGTON - Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed they still would find a way to force President Bush to change ... [Read More]

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» Well, We Know That Isn’t True from Blue Crab Boulevard
The Associated Press is at it again: Republicans block Senate debate on Iraq WASHINGTON - Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed they still would find a way to force President Bush to change ... [Read More]

Tracked on February 5, 2007 10:59 PM

» AP: Spinning for the Democrats- Updated from A Second Hand Conjecture
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The blogosphere is buzzing this morning about various news reports of “Republicans blocking the Senate from debating” on the non-binding Warner-Levin amendment expressing opposition to the President’s surge plan. McQ explains why th... [Read More]

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The DEMOCRATS blocked further debate because they do not wish to have any other resolutions considered, other than that of John Warner/Carl Levin.... a quick note: Warner voted against debate on his own resolution [Read More]

Tracked on February 6, 2007 11:50 AM

» Rudy, Disorientation, Boys & Chesterton from The Anchoress
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