The Grand Obstructionist Party

You can get all of the gory details over at the Senate Democrats' blog, but for those who would rather get to the meat and potatoes (or just watch a video...), check out this hard hitting video on the obstructionism of Senate Republicans.

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MyDD Interview with Louise Slaughter, House Rules Committee Chair

As youmay have noticed, I'm someone who is fairly interested in the rules by which the House of Representatives goes about its business. This interest stems at least in part from Republican claims, which have been picked up by some in the media, that the Democrats are not following through with their promise to run a more open House -- even though the Democrats are clearly running a more open House than the Republicans did in recent Congresses. For this reason, I jumped at the opportunity last week to talk about rules with the source on the subject, House Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter.

On the afternoon of Monday, June 18, 2007, I had the opportunity to sit down with the New York Democrat to talk rules, touching on a number of the most pressing issues facing the House today, including the war in Iraq. You can listen to the interview in the player below, download the audio as a very large .mp3 here or read the rush transcript below.


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Jonathan Singer: Let's talk about rules. I like talking about rules.

Louise Slaughter: Most people don't.

Singer: I actually find it interesting. I'm one of the few. So in 1910 there was the rebellion that separated the Speaker from the Rules Committee.

Slaughter: Right.

Singer: And there really was more separation. Do you think today that revolution is still ongoing?

Slaughter: Absolutely.

Singer: Do you feel that you have the power, if you strongly disagree with the Speaker, to go against her on a rule?

Slaughter: Not without talking with her, but absolutely. There have been a couple of instances where, one I think we were doing the rules on the floor last year and Nancy was coming down and I said, "We've got to do away with these corporate jets. We can't carry that. We've got to cut out flights on corporate jets." She says, "It's gone."

She's probably the best politician I've seen in my entire life. We were elected about the same time. She came in about six or eight months after I did. Of course she fulfilled Sala Burton's term.

But, no, Nancy's not only very approachable, but she's in control of the House. There's no question about that. But I think she respects me enough - I know she does. She's put me on the leadership committee and so I'm in on every discussion that they have.

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MyDD Interview with Nancy Pelosi

Bumped -- Jonathan

Yesterday morning, Wednesday June 20, I had the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with the Speaker of the United States House, Nancy Pelosi.

During the interview, which immediately followed Speaker Pelosi's speech at the Take Back America conference, we covered some of the questions you raised as well as some that had been in my mind for some time, touching on issues ranging from Iraq to global warming to immigration reform. You can listen to the audio of the conversation below, download it as a very large .mp3 here, or read the rush transcript below:


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Jonathan Singer: You talked about the real need to have 60 votes in the Senate and perhaps even 67 and 290 in the House to override the President and get things done. Even understanding that, given the fact that the standing of Congress has declined since Iraq has really been on the table in Congress, do you feel like something else should have been done? You could have taken different steps? Or what does it tell you about moving forward?

Nancy Pelosi: I believe that we're right on course. We had the votes to say that there are timelines and the President had to honor them. The President vetoed the bill. There isn't much more you can do after that.

But we have changed the debate in our country. Going into the spring, nobody thought we would ever be able to put a bill on the President's desk. So we did that. He had the veto and we didn't win. So we have at it now, our next appropriations bill, which will be in the fall. But we'll have an array of initiatives in addition to appropriations.

But the fact is I didn't vote for the supplemental. I thought it was very weak. But it did have Republican thresholds that the President is either going to have to respond to or he is going to have to waive. And I think he has a considerable risk in either case.

But, no, I'm very proud of what we've done in the Congress. I know outside people are dissatisfied. And I am too. I would have liked him to sign the bill and bring the troops home. But that's not where he is. And he's not respecting the wish of the American people in that regard.

But we're right on schedule. Nobody thought we would get a bill on the President's desk and we did. And now we're on our path to--


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Defunding Iraq: Misperceptions, Disinformation And Lies

The entire debate about NOT funding the occupation of Iraq and George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle revolves around one piece of propaganda that has been sold to the public in one of the most heinous aggregations of misperceptions, disinformation, and outright lies ever foisted on a public that cares for the lives of the American troops sent into Iraq, of which there are huge mis-perceptions and an incredible amount of disinformation, i.e. lies, spread by republicans and democrats and trolls.

The Bush Administration, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress alike, repeat almost daily that they will not defund the troops, with both sides vying for public support with the same bullshit.

It's the biggest load of crap there is.

The Democratic Leadership apparently is afraid of not funding the Iraq occupation either because they are afraid of being attacked by Bush and the GOP for not funding the troops, or because they want to continue the occupation.

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The Next Step in the Senate on Iraq

This morning I had the chance to participate in a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to talk about what's happening in his chamber in the next little while. I'll get to the substance of the conversation as well as my impressions of it in a moment, but first let me pass on the AP's account of Reid's strategy to hold Iraq votes in the coming weeks from reporter Anne Flaherty.

Under Reid's plan, the Senate will cast separate votes on whether to cut off funding for combat next year, order troop withdrawals within four months, impose stricter standards on the length of combat tours and rescind congressional authorization for the Iraqi invasion.

The measures likely will be offered as amendments to the 2008 defense authorization bill, a measure that approves $649 billion in military spending.

[...]

The legislative proposals will probably fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass controversial legislation under Senate rules. Many GOP members say they are willing to wait until September before they call for change, giving the president's new strategy of Iraq a chance to work.

When Reid talked about the need to get 60 votes, as noted in the AP report above, I asked him just why 60 votes would really be needed -- wouldn't it be more effective to not only force Senate Republicans to vote no on cloture votes but to actually sustain a filibuster, physically talking the bill to death? Reid seemed to answer in the affirmative that Democrats should put the pressure on Republicans but at the same time seemed to stop short of endorsing a move to keep the Republicans talking indefintely, blocking funds from going to American troops in Iraq.

Judging by the polling, it is just not the case that the Democrats in Congress gained politically from the last debate over funding for the Iraq War. In fact, polling indicates that Congress' approval rating has dropped more than 3 points since the debate over the Iraq supplemental bill really heated up in mid-April. It certainly seems to be the case that President Bush and the Republicans also suffered as a result of their gamesmanship on the issue -- the President's approval rating has dropped more than 2 points over this same period, according to a composite of polls. But at the same time, the Democrats' strategy of allowing for funding bills to move forward without real accountability or a timeline for the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq is just not working politically.

That's why I'd like to see Senate Democrats force Senate Republicans to actually filibuster over Iraq. Put the onus entirely on them. Really step up the pressure. While this might not expedite the beginning of the redeployment of American troops, which indeed it the ultimate goal, it will at least show the American people that the Democrats are willing to stand up for what they profess to believe in and it will put Republicans in the position of playing politics over the war and obstructing any real accountability on the issue.

Update [2007-6-12 23:16:9 by Jonathan Singer]: I just want to make clear that I understand that the Democrats in the Senate are starting at a distinct disadvantage, holding just 49 votes with Tim Johnson out until September (hopefully, if his rehabilitation continues to proceed) and with Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans on Iraq. What's more, I understand that this is a somewhat soft 49, with some Senators not willing to go as far as others or, alternatively, some Senators only willing to go so far. That said, I think it's important to keep the pressure on Senate Republicans, both the caucus as a whole and individual members (particularly those up for reelection in 2008 and even 2010), so that they are continually put on the record as supporting an unending U.S. military presence in Iraq.

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