Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And They Stayed All Night

Democrats held the Senate in a rare overnight session Tuesday in an attempt to publicize their opposition to the Iraq war and their attempts to change the President's policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said the overnight session is meant to show their attempts to force a change in the Iraq war policy was being obstructed by the Republican minority. Republicans dismissed the session as political theater meant to win political support among the war-weary public ahead of next year's elections.

"Our enemies aren't threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

The all night debate focused mainly on an amendment to the defense bill sponsored by Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island.) The amendment would force the President to draw down troop numbers in Iraq beginning 120 days after the enactment of the bill. The President has already said he would veto the bill should it reach his desk with the amendment.

Resigned to the fact that they wouldn't have the 60 votes needed to bring the amendment to a floor vote, Democrats chided Republicans for preventing the Senate from holding a simple majority vote on the Levin/Reed amendment, which was supported by three Republicans; Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska.) Early in the night, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) motioned twice to bring the amendment to a vote, but her motions were objected by Republicans. Democrats stood nearly united in support of the amendment and attacked both the President and the Iraqi government while advocating a withdrawal to force the Iraqis to take charge of their own country.

"The President's strategy in Iraq is the 'Maginot Line' of the 21st Century." Lectured Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

"I believe a fundamental change in our strategy in Iraq is essential." Said Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who stood tired and resigned on the Senate floor shortly after two o'clock in the morning, "We can no longer afford to put more Americans in harm way to secure a peace the Iraqis don't seem to want for themselves."

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), who took to the floor shortly before two o'clock in the morning expressed disappointment with the Iraqi government and admitted that she had believed they would be successful. Cantwell also expressed concern over the future of the Iraqi oil industry, criticizing an attempt by the Bush administration to force the Iraqis to privatize their oil industry, allowing for private companies to profit of Iraqi oil.

"We have to make it clear to the Iraqis that we do not intent to stay in Iraq for their oil" said Cantwell

One member of the Democratic caucus, Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut) opposed the amendment. Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party after being defeated in the Democratic primary by an anti-war candidate last summer called the amendment a "mandated defeat."

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) attempted to find middle ground by offering another amendment, one sponsored by herself and Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) that merely changes and narrows the mission in Iraq rather than draws down troops, but forces the President to change the mission immediately. Collins is considered a very vulnerable Republican. She is up for reelection next year in a state where the war remains very unpopular.

Republicans attempted to defend their positions, claiming the troop surge, which began last winter, has only been in place for a few weeks and needs to be given a chance to succeed. Shortly after 1:30 in the morning, Senators John Thune (R-South Dakota) and John McCain (R-Arizona) engaged in a colloquy, highlighting the successes in Al-Anbar province and stories of Iraqis who pleaded with US soldiers to stay.

Still, Republicans didn't leave their criticisms of the Bush Administration at the door;

"What next when we don't follow through on our moral obligation to clean up a mess we created?" Said Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma)

Our policy has included "too much emphasis on military actions at the expense of diplomacy," bemoaned Senator Collins.

"Things have not gone as well as we had hoped in Iraq" admitted Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) "The aftermath has been marked by errors, marks and frustration."

Still, Republicans continued to insist that to leave Iraq would embolden the terrorists and give them a safe haven. Senator Sessions admonished Democrats for confirming General Petreaus, but refusing to give him a chance to report to Congress in September on progress. Democrats responded, stating that the public patience on Iraq is up;

"Patience is not a virtue in a manifestly failed policy." Said Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who went on to repeat that Iraq has become "Just like Vietnam."

"To wait till September is simply prolonging a war that is no longer our fight." Said Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii)

Democrats attacked Republicans for holding up the Levin/Reed amendment and forcing a 60 vote threshold to move the amendment forward. Standing in front of a giant poster board that read; LET US VOTE, Democrats criticized the filibuster as the GOP obstructing an amendment that they say is in tune to what the public wants.

"It's tyranny of the minority." Rebuked Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)

If it took 60 votes to be in the Senate, most of us wouldn?t be talking tonight." said Freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia)

"Our soldiers are fighting for democracy in Iraq," scolded an exhausted Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) at a quarter past three, "But the Republican minority will not let majority rule here in the Senate."

The marathon debate went on through the night, shifting sides from Republican to Democratic. Senator Webb held the floor around 3:45am, followed by Presidential candidates McCain and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York). Former Presidential Candidate John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) held the floor at sunrise.

As morning progressed and the 11am vote neared, Republicans brought Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) to the floor to staunchly defend the President's strategy.

"The amendment tells our enemies when they can take over in Iraq," said Chambliss

At 11am, with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) presiding, the cloture vote was called. A majority voted for cloture, 52-47, but Democrats fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to move the amendment forward. Four Republicans, Collins, Snowe, Hagel and Smith voted for cloture, Lieberman was the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote nay. After the results, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor, lamenting over the failure to reach cloture, but claiming the overnight marathon debate was a victory for the public.

"I am mixed with pride and regret." Exclaimed Majority Leader Reid

No comments: