Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Filibuster Fight

by shamanic

The headlines have generally been good for Harry Reid's all-nighter, communicating pretty clearly that Reid and the Democrats are fighting to change course in Iraq and Republicans are obstructing them.

McClatchy misses a few important points in an otherwise decent article, as here:

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said Democrats were running "a great risk of overplaying their hand."

Democrats disagreed.

"This is the first step I think of effectively outing the Republican strategy," said freshman Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "I think they figured out that their success is our failure. And that's exactly what Americans are sick of, that kind of partisan gamesmanship. So hopefully we can put a little pressure on the situation and the American people will go, 'Well, that's really bad.'"

When Republicans were in charge, Democrats used filibuster threats to block Bush's judicial nominees whom they considered too conservative. Frustration over that prompted an ultimately unsuccessful GOP-led all-nighter in 2003.

At the time, Democrats vigorously defended their right to demand 60 votes on controversial nominees. Now that Democrats hold a slight majority, Republicans say Democrats have suddenly decided that mounting a filibuster is an abuse of power.

"You can't do it with a straight face," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,rolling his eyes and raising his voice on the Senate floor. "It may be frustrating. It certainly was to us when we were in the majority and the Democrats were in the minority and employed it. But to somehow act as if it's unprecedented . . . it doesn't pass the smell test."

First, writers Margaret Talev and Renee Schoof fail to tell readers that Senate Republicans have been filibustering nearly everything. While Reid's strategy is certainly to shame wavering Republicans into abandoning the president's Iraq policy, the broader point is that Republicans have simply decided that since they lost the last election, they're going to shut the senate down.

The second point to rebut is John McCain's whining. No one is suggesting--as his party repeatedly threatened during its majority years--a "nuclear option" to end the right of senators to filibuster. I have not seen a single call for that. Senate Democrats are simply asking that you actually filibuster, rather than just threaten it. If you threaten to filibuster everything, expect a lot of late nights explaining to the American public why you're shutting down the senate.

Again, I've gotta ask about the optics on this for '08. "We made sure the Democrats couldn't do what you hired them to do." The GOP's going to wear this tactic around its neck like an anchor next year. Keep 'em awake, Harry.

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