Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at Iran

Rick Santorum, who hasn't done much in his lackluster Senate career outside of throwing red meat to religious conservatives and corporatists, is trying to make a name for himself in the area of foreign policy these days as he heads into his major electoral showdown with Demcorat Bob Casey.

With this effort in mind, Santorum put forward a bill that would up sanctions on Iran putting our country closer on the path to confrontation with that Muslim country. And coming into this week, it increasingly looked like Santorum would be successful. A filibuster-proof number of Senators had joined Santorum as co-sponsors and the House passed a similar piece of legislation in April by a 397 to 21 margin. But as The Hill's e-News reports this week, Santorum doesn't much sway within the Senate these days.

In a stunning defeat for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), the Senate on Thursday rejected an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would enhance sanctions on Iran.

The 45-54 vote showcased 24 senators who had signed on as co-sponsors to the original bill yet voted against the amendment, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The original bill had acquired 61 co-sponsors.

Rick Santorum is in some serious trouble these days. Not only is he approaching a monumental defeat in November -- even the Republican Strategic Vision poll shows Santorum at 40 percent against Casey -- he is also losing his sway within the Senate.

It is almost as if Santorum's fellow Republicans -- including GOP stalwarts like Lamar Alexander, Bob Bennett, Thad Cochran, Mike Enzi, Craig Thomas and John Warner (all of whom were among the 14 Republicans to vote against the Santorum legislation) -- have given up on the junior Senator from Pennsylvania and his cynical brand of conservatism. It is almost as if they know he will lose this fall so they no now longer have to pay him homage. And, really, that's just about all someone like Rick Santorum has had going for him during his two terms in the Senate.

Tags: PA-Sen, Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, Senate 2006 (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Re: Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at

IMO, Santorum never had any clout in the Senate. He is a pretty, young face who says the things the increasingly religious zealot GOP base wants to hear. I'm sure the GOP saw him as a prime presidential material - a sock puppet version 2.0 of Bush. That's why he got a leadership spot - to showcase him for voters, not because he has any legislative accomplishments or great intellect to
recommend him.

As for the sponsors on his amendment, I chalk that up to Senators' propensity to try and be on both sides of an issue. Cynical, I realize, but true.

by phillydem 2006-06-16 02:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at

What in the world was Durbin doing, co-sponsering this bill?

by antiHyde 2006-06-16 04:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at

I did a long legal analysis of this bill at dkos several months back.  I may try to track it down, but the gist is that the bill really wasn't much of a shift from our current foreign policy on Iran at the time.  It wasn't like a host of new sanctions or anything like that.  In fact, it wasn't even a very friendly bill to Republican interests since it would have imposed sanctions on American companies (like Halliburton) if they invested in Iran's oil industry.

Yeah, the overall tone would have seemed like saber-rattling, and I'm glad they didn't pass it, because the state of things with Iran has changed in the past couple months.  But it really wasn't such a bad bill at the time.  And it's difficult for people like Durbin to say "well, actually, I agree with most everything this bill says, but I need to vote against the message I think it sends."

Anyway, water under the bridge at this point.

by Steve M 2006-06-16 06:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at

Okay, here is my analysis of the Santorum bill from a couple months back.

This bill has very little in common with the Iraq Liberation Act.  If you want to argue that "even if we impose the mildest economic sanctions on Iraq, BushCo will use unitary executive magic to turn it into an authorization for war," then I can't stop you, but that's still not what the bill says.  Let's have a look.

   

Congress declares that it should be the policy of the United States--

              (1) to support efforts by the people of Iran to exercise self-determination over the form of government of their country; and

              (2) to actively support a national referendum in Iran with oversight by international observers and monitors to certify the integrity and fairness of the referendum.

The House version, which was slightly different, called for financial assistance to pro-democracy groups within Iran.  Let's compare this bill to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998:

   

It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

It looks to me as if there is a very sharp distinction between the two.  Congress has not called for outright regime change in Iran.  Funding pro-democracy movements and hoping for change to occur from within is, of course, business as usual for the US.

There is a legitimate policy debate regarding whether sanctions against Iran help or harm our overall policy.  However, let's be clear that the sanctions in this bill are quite narrowly defined.  One set of sanctions relates to WMD technology:

   

the President shall impose two or more of the sanctions described in paragraphs (1) through (5) of section 6 if the President determines that a person has, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, exported, transferred, or otherwise provided to Iran any goods, services, technology, or other items the provision of which has contributed to the ability of Iran to--

                 `(1) acquire or develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or related technologies; or

                 `(2) acquire or develop destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.'.

I realize selling arms to Iran is a proud Republican tradition but I don't mind breaking with tradition in this case.

The other set of sanctions in the bill makes it harder for American companies such as Halliburton to use offshore subsidiaries to profiteer through Iran's oil industry.  Existing law, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, provides:

   

the President shall impose 2 or more of the sanctions described in paragraphs (1) through (6) of section 6 if the President determines that a person has, with actual knowledge, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, made an investment of $40,000,000 or more (or any combination of investments of at least $10,000,000 each, which in the aggregate equals or exceeds $40,000,000 in any 12-month period), that directly and significantly contributed to the enhancement of Iran's ability to develop petroleum resources of Iran.

The present bill merely toughens those sanctions mildly by eliminating the "actual knowledge" language and penalizing any "private or government lender, insurer, underwriter, re-insurer, or guarantor" which aids another entity in developing Iran's oil industry.

In short, and with all respect to the distinguished Rep. Kucinich, I really don't see this bill as a big deal.  I understand why people are quite concerned about the willingness of the looney-tunes in office to launch another stupid war, but I simply don't see a scenario where we look back 5 years from now and the wingnuts point to this bill as a license to wage war.  It's not much of a change to existing law, and it's clearly different from the way we called for regime change in Iraq.

by Steve M 2006-06-16 06:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Santorum Can't Muster Votes to Rattle Saber at

Thanks for the clarification, Steve.

by antiHyde 2006-06-16 11:49AM | 0 recs
This has *way* more to it...

I'd say Jonathan's parsing of the vote on the Santorum amendment is a tad superficial.

I've discussed his bill and the corresponding House bill (HR 282/S 333) before (here and here).

Pelosi voted for HR 282; Reid and Boxer sponsored S 333; the State Department wrote a letter opposing HR 282; there's a sinister tie-in to a bunch of Iranian terrorists called the MEK.

Quite why the Santorum amendment vote went down as it did, I'm not sure. But it would be out of keeping with the rest of the legislative history if it was as simple as Jonathan suggests.

Final point: among those voting for the amendment was putative 08 Dem prez candidate Bayh.

Bombs away!

by skeptic06 2006-06-16 05:01AM | 0 recs
Also voting for it

was none other than Lieberman.  You would think that he would at least take a break from voting against dems on foreign policy.

Also interesting, Dick Lugar voted against it.  In my mind Lugar is the best Republican Senator if not the best senator in the body.  He battled Helms on FR for years (orchestrating an override on Reagan's veto on a bill that imposed sanctions on South Africa).  I disagree with many of his conservative tendancies, but I believe that he votes based on what he actually believes is best for the country which is why he is not always a party-line guy and is willing to compromise.  If the Senate had more members with his tempermant, a great deal more would get done.

by TulaneDem 2006-06-16 06:11AM | 0 recs
40 percent

I hate to say it, but 40 percent is uncomfortably close to the "safe incumbent" area of 50+ percent. Casey needs to do more outreach to the Pennsylvania voters.

Remember that Lamont (who many think will win) is sitting at 40 percent against Lieberman, and he has less time to close the gap than Santorum does.

by lalawguy 2006-06-16 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: 40 percent

An incumbent at 40% is not "uncomfortably close" to anything but defeat. He's losing by 9 pts to a challnger in a Republican poll. This shouldn't need to be said, but that's bad.

by PantherDem 2006-06-16 11:30AM | 0 recs

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