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February 8, 2007
Seven GOP Senators Demand Complete Debate

After the failure to approve cloture on the single amendment allowed to reach the floor by Harry Reid, it appeared that the Democrats had decided to allow the effort to pass a non-binding resolution to die on the floor -- and blame Republicans for supposedly ending the debate. Seven Republican Senators have decided to push back against that decision, demanding that GOP and Democratic leaders reach some level of accommodation for a full debate on all proposals, a surprise that Reid attempted to ignore when it arose during yesterday's session:

Senate Republicans who earlier this week helped block deliberations on a resolution opposing President Bush's new troop deployments in Iraq changed course yesterday and vowed to use every tactic at their disposal to ensure a full and open debate.

In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most pressing issue of our time," the senators declared: "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate."

The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was not more specific about the Republican senators' strategy for reviving the war debate. But under the chamber's rules, senators have wide latitude in slowing the progress of legislation and in offering amendments, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the bill.

The letter began circulating yesterday evening after it became apparent the Senate was deadlocked over the war resolution and Reid was prepared to move on to other matters. McConnell and many in his party have aggressively defended their decision to block the bipartisan resolution as an issue of fairness because Democrats would not agree to GOP procedural demands.

This is going to get painted as a rebuke to McConnell, but it in fact is targeted at Reid's refusal to allow consideration of two other proposals. The Republicans had offered to allow an up-or-down vote on the Warner-Levin resolution as long as the Democrats allowed the same for two other proposals, one from John McCain and Joe Lieberman explicitly supporting the surge and the other proposed by Judd Gregg that simply declared that Congress would not defund the pre-surge commitment in Iraq. Reid refused, as the Democrats did not want to get put in the position of voting -- and almost certainly losing -- on the Gregg resolution.

Instead, Reid and the Democrats found it easier to claim that the GOP had blocked debate on the surge. In this, they found allies in the media that seemed very willing to paint the cloture vote in that manner. However, a failure of cloture keeps debate open by blocking a call for a vote, and the Republicans had offered a vote on all three with no conditions.

The seven Senators have issued a declaration that demands acceptance of the Republican position, and puts Reid in a box. After two days of crying that the GOP minority would not allow a debate, Warner and his allies have stated emphatically that they want a "full and open debate", and not one limited by the procedural efforts of the Senate majority leader. And Reid knows exactly what they mean, because he already rejected it through his spokesman, Jim Manley. He told Republicans that they should have voted for Warner-Levin while they had the chance -- and that he has no intention of returning to the issue at this time.

I'm no great fan of any of these resolutions, first and foremost because they're essentially useless and have the intent of damaging the President with the equivalent of a no-confidence vote. Rather than wait to see whether the new strategy works -- a strategy demanded by Democratic leadership throughout most of the midterm elections as a criticism of Donald Rumsfeld's small-footprint strategy -- they want to switch positions for strictly partisan purposes. General Peter Pace told Congress yesterday that their debate will have little effect on troop morale, and he'd know that better than me, but it has the effect of kneecapping Bush from seeking extended support for our efforts with other nations. Why would a head of state risk anything to support our strategies when Congress is so intent on humiliating the White House over them.

However, since Reid and the Democrats have made such an issue of having a debate, the Senate Republicans would like to offer one. They just expect a real debate, and not a railroaded directed vote. I'd prefer that the Senate drop the matter, but this serves some purpose of setting the record straight.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 8, 2007 5:54 AM

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