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Tilting at Windmills

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July 18, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

LIVEBLOGGING THE ALL-NIGHTER....Just tuned in to the Senate all-nighter to see what's going on. It's 12:22 am and they're doing a quorum call. Basically, a bunch of people in suits are milling around and the clerk is calling names ver-r-r-r-r-y slowly. Exciting stuff.

Kevin Drum 12:22 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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Is it a quorum call? C-SPAN called it a "procedural vote". Senators are casting yay and nay votes.

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Basically, a bunch of people in suits are milling around and the clerk is calling names ver-r-r-r-r-y slowly. Exciting stuff."

It's kinda like a movie of the interior of Bush's brain.

Posted by: lampwick on July 18, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

This viewer can't tell the players without a program, or the plays without a color commentator. Anyone want to volunteer to be John Madden? This whole affair is as alien to me as watching a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

After the quorum, they had a cloture vote I believe (I turned the channel after the quorum because Reid and McConnel were playing yield-tag.

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

anonymous... What exactly were you confused about? Seemed like most blogs (including this one) have covered exactly what is going on tonight...

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Alex: That's the problem. They're all doing the minutiae. No one gives the executive overview.

I have no idea what a "yes" or "no" vote means. Or how many of one or the other needs before something happens. Or what that something is.

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

I can't follow what's going on. My head's spinning.

Posted by: Willy Bio Is a Troll on July 18, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Are you describing the time using the time in the Eastern Time Zone just because that's where the Senate is?

Posted by: washerdreyer on July 18, 2007 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, ok. Basic run down.

Any time a bill or amendment is passed it must get voted on with at least 51 yes votes.

Before there that vote can happen though, there must be a cloture vote (think close). This is a vote that signifies the Senate agrees there has been enough debate and they can end (close) debate and actually vote for the bill/amendment. The problem is, a cloture vote needs 3/5 of the Senate, or 60 votes. Thus, with the Dems only really having 49, it doesn't matter if they get a few Repubs to pass the bill, they can't even get past cloture!

Quorum calls that happen every once in a while are just roll calls to see who is in the room. It is a procedural move that stalls for time, as well as other really technical things (that even I dont really get).

What tonight is all about is the Dems basically saying, "we are going to debate as long as you want, all night if we have to, so that when you (Repubs) vote against cloture, you look like idiots. If we can debate Iraq for 30 straight hours and you still think we can't have a simple up or down (i.e. 51 to win) vote, you are being ridiculous."

Finally, what they are actually voting on is the Levin-Reed Amendment that has to do with a strict timeline, etc. I don't know the details of the bill, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Lastly (is that after finally?), when Reid gets up there, and is getting interrupted by McConnel, and they go back and forth yielding to eachother and stuff, they are basically just following rules of order that allow the Senate to operate in a very systematic way. Also, many things Reid does are simple, but are required in the rules to be asked for objection, which is why the Presiding Senator (that's not the right term, but the guy sitting in the big chair), has to ask for objection every 20 seconds.

Hope that's enough, feel free to shoot me any more questions :)

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Btw, does anyone understand Coburn's whole Iraq has cancer and we are the Chemotherapy schtick? I am utterly confused by this analogy.

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

And of course the substantive reason the Democrats are forcing this debate (although they know they don't have the 60 votes for cloture) is simply to get the press to actually report the fact that the Democrats are trying to end the war but the Republicans are stopping them.

It's a reaction to the polls that give low approval to Congress because it has failed to end the war. The Democrats are saying: look, we're trying! It's not our fault!

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

Reid said there will be another procedural vote at 5AM and a cloture vote at 11AM and no other votes in between. So he's really giving them a chance to get some sleep between the votes.

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Well I'm glad he's finally stopped using the "Iraq has an unwanted pregnancy" metaphor.

Posted by: toast on July 18, 2007 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

JS is exactly right. Forgot to mention that. A lot of the perception is that "Democrats have a majority and the Senate has done nothing!" This is especially bad when you see news reports saying things like "the bill didn't pass because of a 56-43 procedural vote". This makes not sense to people, as most people think 51 is all you need. If the Dems are getting 56, why can't they do anything, etc?

When the Repubs had a majority they were on the news screaming bloody murder and saying filibuster every other word when Dems did the tiniest thing. Now that they are the minority Repubs are doing it on ev-v-v-v-v-erything.

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

It need not be the phone book, or recipes, as others have suggested. . .

Suggestions as to an agenda of topics to cover for this debate:

* list of Bush staffers and appointees under investigation, indicted, or convicted of crimes, fraud or spying.

* list of Republican party leadership under investigation, indicted, or convicted in the last 7 years of vote tampering, election fraud, fundraising violations, (etc.)

* DC Madam's phone book.

* List of Iraqi civilians who died violent deaths since the invasion.

* List of US Troops killed in action.

* List of prominent rightwing commentators/apparatchicks embroiled in scandal surrounding illegal or immoral behavior (in direct contravention of their own public admonishments) of one sort or another.

* List of incidents of abuse or improper use of National Security Letters through the USA PATRIOT ACT.

* (if it were available) List of people detained and illegally deprived of right to trial, proper representation, right to confront their accuser, presumption of innocence.

* etc.

Posted by: bungholio on July 18, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

ABC TV is reporting that Iraqis and other Middle Easterners have been among those pouring across our Southern Border in the past two years. Some have been paying big money to a slickly-organized operation. Other may just be sneaking across.

(So, at least one television network is beginning to take notice of the war raging on our Southern Border.)

Wonder if the sleepy-eyed Senators have a TV to watch tonight. The Iraqi and other Middle Eastern invasion of the homeland was never mentioned by any of them or anyone else for that matter during the days upon long days of debate on the immigration bill. Nor has President Bush or his White House mentioned it. Nor has Bush or his White House even been questioned on it. But the people along the border say they have known for quite awhile. But, of course, no one in Washington paid any attention to them until perhaps now and ABC TV suggests that a cover up on the matter took place. Homeland Security would be involved, as you might expect. (Wonder if Chertoff's "gut feeling" has anything to do with his malfeasance when it comes to the war on our Southern Border?)

(Here's a prediction for you: The first Democratic presidential candidate to call for sealing our Southern Border wins).

Posted by: bordercrossing on July 18, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

Btw, does anyone understand Coburn's whole Iraq has cancer and we are the Chemotherapy schtick? I am utterly confused by this analogy.

Chemotherapy, to the degree that it works, works by either killing off cells, or preventing them from multiplying. It is keyed to focus on the fast-multiplying (cancer/bad) cells, but also kills a lot of innocent good cells. Hopefully, by the time all the bad cells are destroyed, there are still enough good cells around to keep you alive. You have to destroy things in order to save things.

Posted by: Qwerty on July 18, 2007 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

bordercrossing,

Please learn to recognize propaganda when you see it.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey on July 18, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Qwerty -- You really think he was taking it that far? I was only half listening, did he actually go that deep with it? I got the impression he was being a bit more broad with the sick/doctor thing and just went to cancer/chemo for part of it. Was I mistaken?

I guess if that was his goal I can see it as an ok analogy. I mean, the cells are people, so I don't know if it is a justification, but I guess it is an analogy...

Posted by: Alex on July 18, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the explanation, Alex!

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Just to round out a night of non-stop crap, I've been switching between Home Shopping "Xmas in July" and the filibuster.

They're both an ode to stuff that would scare the bejeezus out of a normal person.

Posted by: ton on July 18, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

If you add actively assisting in the metastasis to the cancer analogy...

Methinks Doc looks pretty cancerous his own Uncle Sam self. But maybe this is a start. The Lieberman cells need excised though, toot-de-sweety. The Cheney cells right out of control. And that Pentagon tumor...

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 18, 2007 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Well I'm glad he's finally stopped using the "Iraq has an unwanted pregnancy" metaphor.

That was abandoned when someone pointed out that it implied the war was the abortion.

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

Qwerty -- You really think he was taking it that far?

I don't know what point exactly Coburn was trying to make. I was just pointing out that chemotherapy is basically a toxic poison that hopefully will kill the cancer before it kills you. For many reasons, including being too little too late, it doesn't always work. Using that as an analogy to support the Iraq debacle doesn't make sense to me, but Coburn is a Republican, so it doesn't have to make sense.

Posted by: Qwerty on July 18, 2007 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats are taking a risk. The Republican-leaning press is unlikely to portray this as an honest attempt by the Democrats to end the war. Already, there are signs that the event is reported as a Democratic "publicity stunt" -- the term the Republicans are using to describe it. ABC is quoting the Republican Senate leader saying "Our enemies aren't threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts". The soundbites that actually make it to the evening news are likely to be of this variety.

Until the Democrats have someone who understands how to get a story out to the media, they should probably avoid high-risk gambits like this.

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

MillionthMonkey:

Please learn to recognize propaganda when you see it.

The ABC news story is here.

It says Middle Eastern people are paying $20,000 to $25,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.

If this has any truth at all, it's disconcerting. We aren't talking farm workers here.

Posted by: harry on July 18, 2007 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

"We aren't talking farm workers here"

There's no evidence we're talking terrorists, either. We created a refugee crisis in Iraq. Are you surprised that some entrepeneurs are trying to take advantage of it?

Posted by: PaulB on July 18, 2007 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

The New York Times political blog describes how Democratic senators lobbied Ried to let them catch some sleep:

The Democrats circled Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, with a purposeful plea: Won’t you please delay the next vote until a little closer to sunrise?

“Harry, sweetheart,” said Senator Barbara Boxer of California, leading the group of Democrats. “5:30 or 6?”

From our vantage point in the press gallery overlooking the Senate floor, Ms. Boxer was leading the lobbying effort on behalf of several senators in her party. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan joined in, too.

Mr. Reid, who had been considering holding a roll call vote around 3 a.m., listened carefully. He held the Senate at rapt attention as he announced the voting schedule. All that seemed to be missing was a drum roll as Mr. Reid said the next vote would be at 5 a.m.

The floor of the Senate cleared quickly as lawmakers – and a few dozen staff members – dashed off to catch a bit of sleep.


Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

Is John McCain giving the exact same speech he gave, what, an hour, two hours ago?

Posted by: thegoodreverend on July 18, 2007 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate Alex's explanation...and I think I understand some people's irritation at Bordercrossing's post...but, being a political Animal myself, when Mr. Border writes:

"(Here's a prediction for you: The first Democratic presidential candidate to call for sealing our Southern Border wins)."

I rock back in my chair a little, raise my eyebrows and go....

Correctamundo, Exactly, Bingo...

Nobody has to like it and certainly such a promise would not have to be followed through on too vigorously...but Mr. Border has it right...

There's the Election in '08 waiting to be had.

Best Wishes, Traveller

Posted by: Traveller on July 18, 2007 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

This "all-nighter" is as worthless as a screen door on a submarine. Why don't the Democrats move right to impeachment and give Bush and Cheney the respect they deserve, which is absolutely none?!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 18, 2007 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

What!? You mean they haven't broken the filibuster and our troops aren't leaving Iraq? To read all the comments from posters here over the last few days about how Harry Reid could stop the obstruction anytime he wanted simply by making them enforce their filibuster, it's just shocking. Where are all the tough guys this morning?

Posted by: Pat on July 18, 2007 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Pat, I can't believe you used the F-word (twice) in a public forum like this. Moderators please make his 8:45 comment less offensive before someone underaged or uninformed sees it.

Posted by: B on July 18, 2007 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Soooo has anybody read the amendment that is causing this great debate?

Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't appear that this allnighter, with nap time in between votes, accomplished much PR. I just looked at the on-line news sites, and it has prominent coverage nowhere.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on July 18, 2007 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Here is the Reed-Levin amendment.

As Kevin reported earlier, its main element is a forced timeline for reduction of US forces in Iraq -- starting in 120 days and being completed by April 2008. The reduction is not meant to be 100% -- forces can remain to train Iraqis, carry out counter-terrorism operations, and for the purpose of "Protecting United States and Coalition personnel and infrastructure."

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

This seems to be a failure unfortunately. Not for lack of trying, but it seems like those that ARE covering it are pinning the filibuster on the DEMOCRATS, thus painting them once more as the obstructionists.

One again, This Is Good For Republicans(TM), and the republic as a whole suffers.

Posted by: Kryptik on July 18, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

The US presence in Iraq is more like treating AIDS with chemo. The situation there is dire enough as is, but the US presence is just making it much much worse.

Posted by: astrid on July 18, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

You're right, Kevin. It should be much more entertaining.

Posted by: david on July 18, 2007 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

> Please learn to recognize propaganda when you see it.

The ABC news story is here.

Sorry, you're going to have to provide a more credible source than ABC before I waste my time.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey on July 18, 2007 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

"As Kevin reported earlier, its main element is a forced timeline for reduction of US forces in Iraq -- starting in 120 days and being completed by April 2008. The reduction is not meant to be 100% -- forces can remain to train Iraqis, carry out counter-terrorism operations, and for the purpose of "Protecting United States and Coalition personnel and infrastructure."

So then it really won't get us out of Iraq. Do you think that the troops that are left will be in more or less danger.


Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

CNN: The legislation was expected to attract the support of a narrow majority of senators -- around 52 votes -- but fall short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and end a filibuster.

Victory of a sort.

CNN finally and truthfully calls Republican efforts a filibuster.

At least now the public has been made expressly aware that Republicans are hypocritically filibustering the legislation and that it would pass if it wasn't for GOP obstructionist tactics.

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

bordercrossing: ABC TV is reporting that Iraqis and other Middle Easterners have been among those pouring across our Southern Border in the past two years. Some have been paying big money to a slickly-organized operation. Other may just be sneaking across.

Well, if ABC News says it, it must be true.

Funny, though, we are constantly catching Mexicans sneaking across the southern border, but no Iraqis or other middle easterners, but on the northern border, which this country's bigots seem to give no attention to, we are always catching Iraqis or other middle easterners trying to sneak in, some with, figuratively, bombs in their pockets.

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Monkey-brain: "Sorry, you're going to have to provide a more credible source than ABC before I waste my time."

Your time is always wasted, dude, regardless of what "sources" you read.

Posted by: simon on July 18, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell,

Did they promise Teddy a keg to keep him in the chamber?

Hadn't heard about any kegs, but some said they overheard Vitter asking for the numbers of some new escors.

Posted by: Edo on July 18, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Ok now I admit to being a senile old conservative. But when I went to the senate site it showed Harry Reid as voting nay with the Republicans. Is this right??? Did those 30 hours convert him. Maybe it was worth it.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK
The US presence in Iraq is more like treating AIDS with chemo. The situation there is dire enough as is, but the US presence is just making it much much worse.

That analogy is better, but still fails to capture that the "treatment" is just more of the same thing that has produced the present problem.

So, I'd say, its more like treating alcohol poisoning with an ethanol IV.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 18, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bet they could of used those rollaway beds in New Orleans a few years ago. The point being that the senate is all show and no go. I am sick of talk why not start taking small actions to get the troops home.

Posted by: Logan Dren on July 18, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

The US presence in Iraq is more like treating AIDS with chemo.

I would think the most appropriate, albeit cliched, description would be "like throwing gasoline on a brush fire."

But that wouldn't even remotely capture the level of stupidity and incompetence of the administration, so let's elaborate . . .

The whole "GWOT" is like cutting and chopping brush and trees for years, letting the debris pile up without any clearing, waiting for a drought, lighting a match in the middle of the debris field, and then adding nitro to the resulting fire, while simulaneously deliberately diverting underequiped fire control resources to false alarms which you subsequently turn into real alarms by dousing the areas with gasoline and setting them on fire.

Posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK
when I went to the senate site it showed Harry Reid as voting nay with the Republicans. Is this righ TruthPolitik at 1:05 PM
He has to vote in the negative in order to be able to bring the same bill up again in the future. Check this previous example

...Unfortunately, the Senate fell three votes short of cloture with 57 Senators voting in favor of the motion. However, by reversing his vote, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist reserved the right to bring up the bill again when Congress returns from recess....

Posted by: Mike on July 18, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"He has to vote in the negative in order to be able to bring the same bill up again in the future. Check this previous example"

Thanks Mike

I actually remember the Frist Example now. Senility is wonderful until it fails.

The senate rules are wonderful aren't they.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

I keep going back to the filibuster of 1964, where debate in the Senate on the House civil rights bill lasted 75 days(there were two filibusters, and debate lasted from March 30, 1964 to June 10, 1964). They didn't pull all-nighters every night, but they didn't move on to college grants either. Why? Because it was important to them. This amendment to bring the troops home wasn't important to the Democrats, except to get a few soundbites out there for the next election. If it was really important they would have fought harder. And the Republicans knew it wasn't really important to them either.

Posted by: Left-Handed Elephant on July 18, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

In order to offer a motion to reconsider in either chamber of Congress, you have to have voted on the prevailing side of the vote. This is one reason you often see the floor leader and committee chairs vote last.

Posted by: Pat on July 18, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the poster means well, but comparing today's Senate to the Senate of 1964 on this issue shows a remarkable lack of understanding of how the chamber has changed. In 1964, there were exactly two cloture votes. Count em -- two. We had two cloture votes within the first 15 days of this Congress. The increasing crush of business as well as the increasing use of obstruction tactics since 1964 is the entire point here, and the entire reason one can't spend three months in a futile effort to get a vote. It's why you don't see this type of filibuster anymore.

Posted by: Pat on July 18, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"This amendment to bring the troops home wasn't important to the Democrats, except to get a few soundbites out there for the next election."

And to appease the unknowing left. Not Cindi Sheehan though. Gotta admit she's smart enough to see what their doing. I don't agree with her but she truely seems to be in it for more than politics.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK
Senility is wonderful until it fails.... TruthPolitik at 2:43 PM
Fortunately, the mind was the first to go. I can't remember how much fun it was when the rest of the parts worked. Posted by: Mike on July 18, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Usually the multi-purpose parts go first.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on July 18, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

"At least now the public has been made expressly aware that Republicans are hypocritically filibustering the legislation and that it would pass if it wasn't for GOP obstructionist tactics."

No, it was way too short for that.

Posted by: jefff on July 18, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK
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