Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 12:29:43 PM EDT
Bob Geiger has the big scoop of the day: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will force the Republicans to actually filibuster -- to speak at length rather than just vote against cloture -- a measure that would bring an end to the Iraq War. This is a move called for by former MyDDer Chris Bowers, among others, and one that I have generally thought to be a good idea (as I indicated a few months ago).
That said, I'd like to take a moment to lay out a few notes of caution -- not an argument that the Democrats should not undertake this move, because I generally believe they should, but some thoughts that should be kept in mind through this process.
During the last Congress, Senate Republicans found themselves to be frustrated by Democrats' moves to stall the judicial nominations of some extremely conservative jurists. As a result, they decided to hold a 30-hour counter filibuster, forcing Democrats to the floor overnight as they talked through the evening about the importance of radically realigning the court to favor corporations, an all-powerful executive and the religious right. By undertaking this action, Senate Republicans hoped to expose what they saw as Democratic obstructionism. Yet in the end, it was the Republicans who emerged with egg on their faces, seemingly wasting taxpayer dollars and legislators' time in a clearly futile effort.
I do not believe that there is a direct parallel here. For one, the Democrats are on much stronger political footing working to end the war in Iraq than the Republicans ever were during the battle over judicial nominations. The Republicans' move was a play to the base whereas the Democrats' move is one that appeals not only to Democrats but also Independents and even some Republicans fed up with the war.
Yet at the same time, just as the Republicans' dog and pony show during the last Congress did wonders to highlight the Democrats' attack that the 109th Congress was a "Do Nothing Congress", so too might an all-night talk-a-thon remind voters of the fact that despite the fact that the Democrats have been able to move legislation out of the House and even at times out of the Senate that a good deal of of the top priorities of Congressional leadership have not been signed into law.
I do not believe that this is something that will necessarily happen. But it is worth bearing in mind as the Senate Democrats move forward with this procedure -- particularly as we strive to shape the debate over the debate.