Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

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.

Tags: 110th congress, Filibuster, Iraq (all tags)



Blame for delay

1) Is the measure popular?  I would say that the Iraq war LIMITS are popular, and gaining in popularity every day.  Thus, I believe that Dems will benefit by identifying Repukes as the delayers.

2) Publicity:  Get out there, every day, and say, "Here are the measures that the Repukes delayed today: A, B, C."  Pick the most popular.

3) What I would do, if I were Reid, is force the Repukes into delay after delay.  Find a method to bring up one measure they oppose after another.  And then cancel the August recess.

by dataguy 2007-07-16 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Blame for delay

I posted a Diary here yesterday called:

Why Do Democrats Fear A Filibuster? 49/909#commenttop

I was delighted to wake up today and see the netroots organizing to put presure on our Democratic Leaders to make the Republicans put up or shut up about a filibuster. I'll just say here that I agree with your points, the public has justifiably hungry for the Democratic Majority in Congress to go the extra mile and fight for what they were elected to achieve. We can forgive them when they fall short while exhausting the limits of their power, but not when they fight with one hand tied behind their back.

My Diary has the long version of my feelings about this, and all the arguments for why this is exactly what Democrats in the Senate need to be doing now. Suffice it to say here now: Finally, we see some progress.

by Tom Rinaldo 2007-07-16 04:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Blame for delay

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by dearreader 2007-07-16 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Blame for delay

Nearly 220 years after America's Constitution was drafted in Pennsylvania, scores of rural Keystone State communities are declaring the document null and void.

More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism.

Ah. Yes. The section of the constitution that talks about corporations. I don't quite seem to remember what part that's in, exactly. Is that the section that defines Dick Cheney as the fourth branch of government?

By the way, just out of curiosity, does this have something to do with Harry Reid forcing a Senate filibuster on Iraq?

by Silent sound 2007-07-16 05:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

The outrage and upset with Democrats when they caved to the Republicans has had an effect.  Basically the Harry is proving to the base and population at large that they have a serious problem with Republicans who are willing to thwart the desires of the majority who want out of Iraq.  This is showing that the Democratic senators may be developing a backbone.  The Republicans used this strategy in pursuit of a position that was not worthy regardless of how they spun it.  

Getting out of Iraq is a popular measure.  The public is willing to give the Democrats some room on how to do this, but they have to be seen as doing something and if the Repubs won't co-operate they need to be seen as obstructionist. This is a win for Harry and for Democrats.  Yes some will spin it negatively, but giving in will be seen as being spineless by Democrats and Independents.  Doing something even if it doesn't work is better than doing nothing and giving in before fighting.  Our troops are dying and are not on vacation.

Good for Harry and the Democratic senators.

by pioneer111 2007-07-16 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

Harry has impressed me today. I was losing faith. Keep up the good work, Harry.

by Pope Jeremy 2007-07-16 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

Jaysus H. Keerist!  Is Jonathan's post what political sophistication leads to?  If so, I am proud of my naivete.  If the American public is so stupid that seeing Republicans filibuster measures the American public itself wants, then we're good and fucked already, and by "we" I do not mean "us Democrats".

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2007-07-16 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

Requesting unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks:

Jaysus H. Keerist!  Is Jonathan's post what political sophistication leads to?  If so, I am proud of my naivete.  If the American public is so stupid that seeing Republicans filibuster measures the American public itself wants WILL BACKFIRE ON THE DEMOCRATS, then we're good and fucked already, and by "we" I do not mean "us Democrats".

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2007-07-16 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

I don't see any emphasis (yet) on a strategy of highlighting the Republicans use of the filibuster tactic to stop any majority-supported legislation of any consequence.

If Reid sticks to this bill and doesn't expand the discussion to include the filibuster of the Prescription Drugs, Minimum Wage, No-Confidence on Gonzales, and Troop Relief bills, than I can easily see a tit-for-tat media narrative where the efforts of both parties to filibuster in different Congress sessions are unfairly given equal standing.  Heck, as TPM and others have pointed out, the Webb Troop Relief bill wasn't covered as a failure because of a Republican filibuster, but a general failure of the Senate to get it passed.

Trent Lott has already provided an on-the-record statement that stalling is their noble strategy.  Use that and make this effort an exposure of how low the Repubs have sunk.

by zprofound 2007-07-16 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

Good point Jonathan. I hope the Dems have a massive war room and rapid response team ready to ensure that we frame this debate as a problem of pure Republican Obstructionism on the biggest issue of the day, Iraq. Nothing less than that.

by rosebowl 2007-07-16 01:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

I can not believe how many liberal blogs have this wrong.

Reid is NOT filibustering.  He is threatening to hold 30 hours of debate that stretches past his bedtime into the next day.  Big fucking deal.

(Why 30 hours?  It's symbolic.  Cloture votes that pass limit debate to 30 hours.)

And what happens after those 30 hours?  Nothing.  The Democrats still have to win a cloture vote.

Blog after blog keeps talking about "filibuster" and how Reid is doing this, and Reid is doing that.  My God, our side doesn't have a clue.  It's almost enough to make one want to become a Republican. (I just can't stand siding with war criminals.)

If Reid wanted to play tough he would schedule a debate and keep the Senate in session until a cloture vote passed -- for days, if necessary.  This isn't even a slap on the wrist.  Reid has told the Republicans "catch up on your sleep because we will have a little high theater in two days.  After that, we can all go back to funding the war".

by PageUp 2007-07-16 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

I can not believe how many liberal blogs have this wrong.

Reid is NOT filibustering.

I don't say that he's filibustering. I say that he is forcing the Republicans to effectively follow through with their filibuster threat (voting against cloture) by having Democrats talk through the night -- which is what he is planning.

There's an extent to which I agree with you that Reid should just continue to keep the Senate in session debating Iraq 24/7 until cloture is attained. But such a move would incur serious opportunity costs -- both real (Democrats wouldn't be able to move the rest of their agenda or pass funding bills, for instance) and perceived (there is the potential that the Democrats' gambit is viewed as a government shutdown, even if that is not in fact the case).

Anyway, I don't think it is a bad move at all to force the Republicans to filibuster, because even if it does not bear fruit in a legislative success it will raise public awareness about the fact that the Republicans are filibustering just about anything and everything.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-07-16 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

But it's not like the Democrats are actually passing any of our agenda anyway. Why? All of our big pieces end up filibustered.

At this point, Iraq is clearly the most immediate and important issue facing us as a nation. If Republicans accuse the Democrats of wasting time by focusing on unimportant things, we can just ask them what's important if not Iraq, and what pieces of legislation can we push that you won't filibuster?

So, I say bring on the filibuster. No AC, no August recess, no anything. Democrats need only show spine, and all else will follow.

by Zephyrus 2007-07-16 02:37PM | 0 recs
Huh? Why have DEMS talk through the night??

Remember the underlying Senate rule: if everyone's done talking, a vote ensues.

So why should Dems say a word?  The moment nobody on the GOP side has anything more to say, the Dems should hold their peace, and let the up-or-down vote on Reid-Levin happen.

All Reid has to do is keep his amendment on the floor.  The GOP is then forced to provide the entertainment.

by RT 2007-07-16 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Huh? Why have DEMS talk through the night??

Well, if I were the one organizing this (which I'm of course not), then I would schedule a time at the beginning of each day where, if the filibuster were still going, the Democrats would take the floor for 20 minutes or so to maybe just summarize their side of the debate. I would suggest just reading the dispatches from Iraq out of that morning's newspaper.

by Silent sound 2007-07-16 05:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

I completely support Reid's plan to force debate through the night. And I suspect that this is just the beginning of the new backbone Reid will be exhibiting. This action is much better than the proposal by some bloggers requesting that Reid force the Republicans to filibuster. Now at least the Democratic party will be able to point out over and over again what they are trying to do and what the Republicans are trying to stop.

by DoIT 2007-07-16 02:27PM | 0 recs
Lapdog press shoots friend in the face

By doing the GOP dirty work of portraying each of these votes as the Democratic failure to round up enough votes, rather than the GOP's success of obstructionism, there is no choice. I would even blatantly state why it's necessary.

Clearly, the GOP feels their best hope in 2008 is to stop up the gears and portray the Dems as incompetent and incapable of achieving any of their goals. The press was helping lay the groundwork for this narrative with cleverly slanted headlines (via TPM) in stark contrast to the ones that appeared when the situation was reversed in the past: obstructionist Democrats were now ineffective Democrats. So, we have to force a fillibuster to make it clear where the obstruction is coming from -- the press certainly won't.

As for being portrayed as theatrics -- we should be so lucky. To achieve that would mean Dems playing a clever game of hardball. It speaks to a savvy Republicans want to convince the public the Dems are incapable of. For them to be victims would mean we are the manly men, wielding power with a strong hand. It means they are weak and getting kicked around.

That plays against type in a way that will confuse DC punditry.

by Memekiller 2007-07-16 02:43PM | 0 recs
The Democrats had better follow through on this

The important thing here is that it needs to be clear that this is an all-out campaign to get this bill passed, not just an attempt to put Republicans on the spot. It needs to be absolutely clear that it is the Republicans causing this filibuster, not the Democrats-- that the Republicans are obstructing, and the Democrats are just doing their jobs. If this whole filibuster thing is represented in the press as something the Democrats are doing (rather than something the Republicans are doing and the Democrats are working to make the Republicans back down on), it might not go so well.

Above all, if the Democrats attempt this, they need to follow through on this. Once the filibuster starts, it needs to continue until the Republicans back down, no matter how long that takes. Forcing the Republicans to filibuster for a week, then turning around and going "well, that's our limit. You won." will have no effect but to make the Republicans look strong and the Democrats look weak-- again. The Republicans have made great hay of the fact that this year, every time they've played Chicken with the Democrats, it was eventually the Democrats who blinked. This needs to stop. The Democrats have to go into this confrontation with the expectation they are going to win it, and they have to do everything to make that happen-- media barrages, constant pundit guilt trips about how the Republicans have shut down the Congress rather than let an Iraq timetable pass, targeted ads to encourage constituents of Iraq swing votes to try to influence their congresspersons to end the filibuster, everything necessary. This has to be treated like a make or break moment. If the Democrats can't win this, they will never win anything.

With that goal in mind, the Democrats' policy so far of giving up when faced with a filibuster may actually pay dividends now-- with so much of the agenda for this year already either passed or given up on after a filibuster, there is not really anything more important to blow the rest of the year on than getting this defense bill passed with the appropriate stance on Iraq.

Incidentally, Obama at one time was pushing a "just 17 more votes to end Iraq" approach to the Iraq fight, advocating pressuring Republican swing votes on Iraq bills to move over one by one until a veto-proof majority was acquired. If he was ever serious about this, the time to start working on carrying that plan out is now. There is no better first step to getting a veto-proof majority for Reid-Levin than getting a filibuster-proof majority for Reid-Levin.

by Silent sound 2007-07-16 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq


Although I do wish it had been done on the Webb bill. It is easier to show that as the R's being against the troops

by del 2007-07-16 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing a Filibuster on Iraq

This filibuster needs to happen.  Hopefully, it will force Republicans to change the way they evaluate the war and justify their continued support to their consituents.  To me, there is no justification.  Regardless of the reasons why the United States chose to invade Iraq or even why a US presence remains there today, it is clear that the Bush Administration is putting too many of its resources--OUR resources-- into remaining there.  To date, the war has cost over $340 billion dollars--money which could have been spent much more wisely and with better end results.  It is estimated, for example, that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide.  In a time when the current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach.  Thus, it is clear that the occupation of Iraq needs to end, and it needs to end now without regard to what this will do to United States interest in Iraq's oil.  There are simply much more important issues that need to be addressed.  

by Jessica 2007-07-16 03:28PM | 0 recs
Labor day weekend

I would start making them filibuster over Labor Day Weekend.  What would typically be a slow news weekend would have all the headlines for the weekend "Republicans delaying a vote on the Minimum Wage over Labor Day Weekend", the  Employee Free Choice Act was table the end of last month!  The symbolism is huge!

by jsaveliv 2007-07-16 08:26PM | 0 recs


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