Pro-Geneva Convention Coalition Nears Filibuster-Proof Margin
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 10:56:50 AM EDT
The coalition of Democratic Senators and a handful of Republicans -- most notably John Warner, Lindsey Graham and John McCain -- opposed to President Bush's reinterpretation of the Geneva Convention's requirement for fair trials and prohibition against torture is nearing a filibuster-proof margin, according to reporting today by Carl Hulse, Kate Zernike and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times.
Mr. Bush seems equally determined to win provisions he says are needed to interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects. He and his allies are ratcheting up pressure on Senate Republicans who support alternate rules adopted this week by the Armed Services Committee. Mr. Warner, like his two colleagues, has a network of high-ranking current and retired military officers who provide regular guidance and support. While he has been consulting them privately, some are expected to weigh in publicly in the days ahead. One aide said on Saturday that the number of Senate Republicans behind the three senators was widening beyond the 8 or 10 they had anticipated, with lawmakers -- heavily influenced by Mr. Powell's stance -- preparing to soon go public with their views.
In interviews, two senior Bush administration officials acknowledged that the White House had underestimated the depth of opposition Mr. Bush's proposal would provoke. They also said they had focused mostly on gaining Mr. Graham's support and mistakenly believed they had it, based on statements he made about the Geneva Conventions in Senate hearings. A Republican senator separately described the clash between the White House and Mr. Warner's group as "a train wreck." [emphasis added]
The debate over the Geneva Convention -- specifically their protections for those captured during war -- is not over. During the next two months, Republican opposition to President Bush's creative reading of the Convention could wane as a "compromise" is achieved. In this case, we could see a replay of the debate over the creation of the Homeland Security Department during the lead up to the 2002 midterm elections as Republicans eventually settled on language so unpalatable to many Democrats that it split the opposition.
That said, it is the Republicans who are terribly fractured at this point, as evidenced by this headline from The Times yesterday. And if this dynamic of division within Congressional Republicans continues through election day, as it has for almost the entire duration of the current Congress (Republicans couldn't come together on immigration, on tax reform, on Social Security privatization, etc.), it will be they, not the Democrats, who will have difficulty convincing voters that they are in agreement on the most vital issues and thus able to govern effectively.