The Filibuster: now painless and more convenient than ever!
by Kagro X
Thu Sep 20, 2007 at 07:22:43 AM PDT
Senator Jim Webb's "dwell time" amendment failed yesterday by a vote of 56-44.
Yes, it failed by garnering 12 more yes votes than no votes.
By now, though, most of us are used to seeing this sort of thing. "Everyone knows" that it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate. Because that's how many votes it takes to invoke cloture, and cloture is how you break a filibuster. Right?
But that ain't what's happening.
And it's why you're not seeing headlines today declaring that Senate Republicans cravenly filibustered legislation that would have required that troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan get recovery time at home equal to the time spent in combat.
Such a requirement, by the way, is already a tremendous compromise. The Pentagon brass usually requires twice as much rest as deployment. But Webb's compromise required only half that much rest. Still, Republicans said no. Our troops -- including our "one weekend a month" National Guardsmen -- must be required to spend more time in combat than out. So that the rest of us can all shop, watch TV, cut taxes, or take a "wide stance" if we feel like it.
So why aren't the papers reporting on the Republican intransigence in the Senate? Why aren't they telling everyone how they're ordering troops stressed to the breaking point back into combat while they busy themselves smoothing their pocket squares? Why aren't they publishing screaming headlines about the sheer gall of yesterday's Republican filibuster?
Because there was no Republican filibuster. That's why.
Instead, the reason the Webb amendment failed even though it got 56 votes was that Senators agreed by unanimous consent that the amendment should have to get 60 votes to pass, even without a filibuster.
But why would anyone agree to allow Republicans, who are already on pace to shatter all previous filibuster records, to stop an amendment this important and this sensible without even lifting a finger? And the question here is not just why anyone would allow it, but why everyone did. A single Senator could have put a stop to this simply by saying, "I object" when the unanimous consent request was made. Just one Senator.
Yet none did.
Not Harry Reid. Not Russ Feingold. Not Bernie Sanders.
And so the Webb amendment died quietly yesterday, allowing Republicans to enjoy all the obstructionist benefits of a filibuster, without having to stand up and tell Americans and their fighting men and women in the military exactly what they were doing. And not a moment was "wasted" on the "extended debate" that's supposed to make up a filibuster.
Everyone just politely agreed that 56-44 would be a losing vote for America's sons and daughters wearing the uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they did it on national television. And America yawned, hit the snooze button, and slept in.
In the coming days, the Congress will be dealing with the appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008. President Bush has threatened to veto almost every single one of them, which would leave the United States without any spending authority come October 1. That's ten days from now. The president says he's going to veto everything, and we have ten days to see if he's serious, decide what to do in case he is, and then figure out a way to get funding passed.
But hey, since those veto threats are pending, why not just agree to unanimous consent requests in both the House and the Senate that the appropriations bills will require a 2/3 vote to pass? Since they're going to be vetoed, why not just spare poor President Bush the trouble and the wear and tear on his veto crayon, and agree up front that if a bill doesn't pass with a veto-proof majority, it shouldn't be considered passed at all?
Because that's the logical extension of what happened yesterday. And the truth is, it makes no less sense. We don't know that Bush has the will to veto these bills any more than we knew that Republicans had the will to filibuster the Webb amendment. And I mean really filibuster. Not wait out a one-day cloture petition, beat it, and then break for lunch. But really stand on their feet day in and day out, live on C-SPAN2, and tell America they think our troops should spend more time in combat, and their families should just shut up about it.
Until recently, cloture votes were the easy way out of a filibuster. Forty-one Senators had only to make their protest last long enough to make it to the cloture vote, beat it, and then bask in their victory as the majority pulled the "defeated" legislation from the floor and slunk away. But believe it or not, Senate Democrats have found an easier way to do this, and begin slinking even earlier.