Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What just happened in the Senate

After their all night pajama party?

Read Spencer Ackerman at TPM Cafe:

1. Procedurally, what's next for Reid? What various options does he have?

The problem for Reid right now is this: How can he get the Reed-Levin proposal on redeployment, his chosen way of ending the war, to a vote, now that it's been revealed yet again that the GOP has the votes necessary to block it? What legislative vehicles are available to him?

At the Dems' post-vote press conference, Reid said that he's "not tipping my mitt" by answering the question. But leadership staffers acknowledge that there are really only three courses of action open to Reid going forward:

A) Keep them attached to the defense authorization bill. Reid voted against the bill today in order to reserve the right to bring defense authorization to the floor again later. But obviously, as a senior leadership aide conceded to me, this course would just replay today's blocked cloture vote unless the GOP agreed not to block it again, which is an open question.

B) Attach the amendment to the upcoming defense appropriations bill, and reintroduce it that way. The GOP might filibuster again, and the same game would start. This time, each side would try and blame the other for blocking the year's half-trillion-dollars of Pentagon funding.

C) Introduce the amendment as a free-standing bill. This would be a potentially even tougher road to follow, because there's no larger Defense-funding measure to accuse Republicans of opposing. Furthermore, Democrats uncomfortable with a mandated timeline for redeployment, like Nebraska's Ben Nelson, could balk for the same reason.

Reid indicated at the presser that the most likely vehicle for Levin-Reed is going to stay with the defense authorization. "There are two things that I want to accomplish," he said. "One is to pass a defense authorization bill, but with a deadline dealing with Iraq."

While Reid may not want to be hemmed in by his statement, it's a fair indicator of his intent. Sticking with the defense authorization may be the best course politically for the Dems. That's because it has the political upshot of not tying the Dems' Iraq effort to a bill supplying actual money to the Pentagon, which would be the case with the Defense appropriations bill. And that means Dems won't be opened up to the charge that they're willing to defund the Pentagon in order to stop the war.

He goes on from there in discussing Reid and his actions, past and future. He ends with this:

5. Stop this equivocating! Who won?

The GOP won -- today, at least. Sen. Mitch McConnell prevented the crucial ten Republican defections. Much of the media is portraying the Democrats as either obstructionists -- which must rankle them, since they weren't the ones filibustering the defense bill -- or as losers. And since the Dems didn't break the filibuster, that last part is true enough.

Looking beyond the day's vote, however, reveals a more complicated picture. After the Democrats lost the Iraq battle over the supplemental appropriation in the spring and didn't launch another fight against the war, many on the left were disillusioned with the Democrats. Antiwar liberals appear much more energized now, so clearly today's events had one positive effect for Reid: It appeared to shore up his support on the left again.

More importantly, by raising the Iraq debate in the summer, the Democrats have created something of a public expectation that September is the beginning of the end for the war. Even Fred Barnes's summation piece for the Weekly Standard is titled "McConnell Holds The Line; At Least Until September." The benefit for the Democrats of the July push, even the unsuccessful one, has been to redefine the debate over the war.

By forcing the discussion now, Dems forced Republicans into the fall-back position of saying, "The war should begin to end not now, but in September." That means it will be tougher for Republicans to continue to back the war come September -- Petraeus report or no.

Two weeks ago, it was hardly clear that September would be the beginning of the end, as opposed to a potential rallying point for Republicans when Petraeus comes to Washington. But thanks to how the July debate unfolded, come September the GOP's victory today could look like a Pyrrhic one.

Update: The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON -- For the seventh time this year, Senate Republicans today blocked a measure to change U.S. policy in Iraq, beating back the latest Democratic proposal to set a timeline for withdrawing troops.

Democrats fell eight votes short of the 60 votes demanded by Republican leaders for an amendment to the defense authorization bill being debated in the Senate. Four Republican lawmakers joined Democrats, ending a round-the-clock session orchestrated by Democratic leaders Tuesday night to highlight what they alleged was Republican obstructionism.

Reid pulled the defense authorization bill from the Senate floor after the vote, enraging Republicans.

The maneuver means that highly partisan debate on the $649-billion measure — and other amendments calling for a change in Iraq — is on hold. Reid would not say when he would reintroduce the legislation.
And Bill Geiger:
Note how Reid "reminded" the Republicans that nothing in the DoD bill he just set aside takes effect until October anyway as a preemptive strike against their predictable cries of Democrats depriving the troops and not supporting them.

"We have spent 2 days showing America that we will not back down," said Reid. "That we will keep fighting. That if President Bush and his allies in Congress refuse to budge, we will continue to show them the way."

No comments: