Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

Way down towards the end of Jonathan Weisman's front page article in The Washington Post on the Iraq bill passed by the House last night, the reporter includes an interesting and fairly surprising nugget: There's a possibility of a Republican filibuster against funds for the Iraq War on the basis of GOP opposition to the benchmarks included by Democrats.

Reid faces two legislative hurdles. First, he must gain Republican support for a placeholder bill, so he can start negotiations with the House. Then he will have to strike a final agreement with Pelosi that can attract enough Senate GOP support to avert a filibuster. [emphasis added]

As best I can remember this is the first time I've heard anyone raise the possibility that the Republicans would filibuster against the Iraq supplemental on the grounds of the benchmarks included in the legislation. After all, they did not mount a filibuster against the previous Iraq funding bill containing a provision mandating the beginning of a withdrawal of American troops even though they had sufficient numbers to do so.

My sense is that Republicans wouldn't filibuster a bill similar to the one passed last night in the House -- but I could be wrong. If the Republicans in the Senate indeed vote to block cloture on such a bill in the hopes of killing it, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his caucus should force the Republicans into actually mounting a filibuster. And I'm not talking about a 24- or 48-hour marathon like the Republicans' undertook last Congress to try to bully the Democrats on judges. If the Republicans believe they have a winning issue blocking funding in an attempt to force the Democrats' into removing benchmarks for accountability then the Democrats should fight back by forcing the Republicans to speak at length -- for a week, for a month, however long until enough GOP Senators peel off of the effort so that the caucus relents and allows a vote on the Democrats' Iraq funding bill.

It's hard for me to envision the Democrats losing such a battle in the arena of public opinion. In fact, there are few things in my mind that could strengthen the Democrats' hand as they try to end the war in Iraq as much as a Republican filibuster. Now I don't think Republicans are stupid enough to do this, but perhaps I shouldn't underestimate their capabilities...

Tags: 110th congress, Filibuster, Iraq, Possible Filibuster of Iraq Bill HR 2206, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

13 Comments

Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

The rules are different now...

After Strom Thurmond's tirade against civil rights and a few of his friends reading phone books in attempts to stall litigation, They changed the rules so that there is no such thing as a prolonged filibuster... if the cloture vote comes up, and it fails, that's it... move onto next business.

There can be no more "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" type moments... although, I wish there would be.

Thanks,

Mike

by lordmikethegreat 2007-05-11 07:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

Thats right. But I thought the new rules provided the possibility of one person speaking for an extended period to prevent a cloture vote from taking place (I could definitely be wrong but I don't think anyone can force a senator to sit down and shut up).

Of course this would only happen if Democrats had the cloture votes which is unlikely. Also, the filibuster wouldn't be as useful with just one person doing the talking.

Alternately, couldn't Reid FORCE continued debate on the subject? Or couldn't he change the rule- isn't it just a senate procedural thing?

by js noble 2007-05-11 08:31AM | 0 recs
Senate Rules Changes?

I'm no expert, but as far as I know, the only rules change is that Rule 22 was altered so that cloture only takes 3/5, rather than 2/3, of the Senate.

I believe what has changed is a combination of (a) power, and (b) custom.  

According to Wikipedia:

In current practice, Senate Rule 22 permits procedural filibusters, in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses. This threat of a filibuster can be just as powerful as an actual filibuster.

From 1995 to 2006 (excepting late 2001 and 2002), the GOP controlled the Senate.  If Democrats filibustered, it was usually to block something unpopular; if the GOP did, it was usually to block something popular.  Either way, the GOP had nothing to gain by turning a procedural filibuster into the real thing.

The result has been the death of the filibuster, as a Senate custom.

But it is only a custom: apparently if Harry Reid wants to force the GOP to do a talkathon to maintain a filibuster, he has the power to do so.

And he damned well should.  Not only would it force the GOP's hand on this issue, but by attaching a cost to blocking cloture, it would make the GOP more reluctant to block cloture on popular measures.

by RT 2007-05-11 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

There are two reasons the Senate Republicans didn't filibuster last time:

1) It does them no good to look like they are the ones holding up war funding; and

2) They, and not Bush, are the ones who have to suffer the electoral consequences from this war, and so they're incredibly uninclined to do his dirty work for him.

Why would the Senate Republicans expend the political capital for a filibuster just to save Bush the effort of vetoing?  I don't see the logic.

by Steve M 2007-05-11 07:37AM | 0 recs
votes to win

Do Democrats still have the 51 votes to win on something close to the House bill? Nelson seems to be making noise against this kind of effort -- has any other Democrat spoken up about this? What about Gordon Smith and Hagel?

by alw 2007-05-11 07:41AM | 0 recs
Two things to consider

they may have to filibuster because Bush will be forced to sign this one into law, he is only blustering on a veto.

Second, the Democrats should pass whatever in the Senate and come out of Conference with the House version (similar to the kind of shenanigans pulled by the Republicans) and force the Senate to pass no bill at all.

by Nazgul35 2007-05-11 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

If you were running for reelection to the Senate in 2008 as a Republican, would you want to filibuster anything that the Democratic caucus supported?  Get serious.  

Your best hope is to keep you mouth shut and pray to your supreme being that the D's do you the honor of allowing you to look reasonable many, many times between now and then.

by mindermast 2007-05-11 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

I thought there was a Senate rule against filibuster of any appropriation bill.  Is a supplemental different?

by blevinswes 2007-05-11 08:46AM | 0 recs
One or two points...

Let's home right in on the graf that Jonathan mentions:

Reid faces two legislative hurdles. First, he must gain Republican support for a placeholder bill, so he can start negotiations with the House. Then he will have to strike a final agreement with Pelosi that can attract enough Senate GOP support to avert a filibuster.

The bit about the placeholder bill I don't quite understand: Mr Google says that there is such a thing, but precisely how one is necessary to allow Reid to talk to Pelosi is beyond me.

The usual scheme of things, of course, is that both houses have a go at producing texts that satisfy them severally; and then they conference and compromise (or not).

So reference to filibuster after House-Senate negotiations would usually be to a filibuster of the conference report.

But - I'm not clear what the Post guy means.

The GOP's best bet is to ensure that the Senate bill fails on a simple majority.

Now, I was completely wrong in my guess (it wasn't anything more) on the tally on the McGovern bill HR 2237 yesterday. And guesswork on whip counts is all I can manage!

But the downbeat statements we've been getting from Uncle Harry have led me to assume that there is not a simple majority for a short leash bill in the Senate.

If that turns out to be true, it's up to McConnell to ensure that no filibuster is necessary to kill the bill. (He obviously doesn't want to back weaker Dem brethren into a corner, but leave them exposed in the wide blue yonder with their anxieties!)

So - suppose there's a filibuster. As folk upthread having pointed out, the old-style Mr Smith filibuster is dead: it's still in the rules, and if Reid wants it to happen, he can.

So there must be a reason why it doesn't happen. And that reason is that there is an immense pile of stuff that Reid has to get through - enormous bills that will eat floor time like a swarm of locusts - and the CW that is that the value to the majority party of the footage of filibusters in action is smaller than the value of cracking on with viable bills.

The political reason from someone upthread that why should GOP senators give Bush cover I mostly buy.

But McConnell needs to keep something like control of his guys; in particular, he needs to keep responsibility for broad strategy; and having those guys degenerate into bands of francs-tireurs taking potshots at Bush is something he'd want to avoid.

This one will take a lot of thought to unravel.

by skeptic06 2007-05-11 09:40AM | 0 recs
Forty One Votes?

If the Senate Republicans are stupid enough to do that, I will give money to Veterans Against the War.

That filibuster would disintegrate rapidly once individual Senators are targeted for protest.  It would be very difficult for Mich McConnell to hold on to forty one votes.  He himself would be subject to damage in Kentucky.

by Hellmut 2007-05-11 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

Hummm, republicans filibustering a bill that would provide funds for our troops in the midst of combat, and yet they still claim to "support our troops?". If I was Harry Reid, I'd say "bring it on". And if I was a republican senator up for re-election in 2008, I'd slap McConnell in the face if he calls for a filibuster; but then again, i'm using logic and reason here, which clearly have no place in republican party politics.

by bjschmid 2007-05-11 09:51AM | 0 recs
if GOP wants to filibuster money for troops

let 'em.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-05-11 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Will Senate Republicans Filibuster on Iraq?

And to think how recently it was that the Republicans were threatening to do away with filibusters all together.  Oh, if this happens, the irony...

by Aunt Martha 2007-05-11 11:17AM | 0 recs

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