Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 6, 2010

IF TWO WEEKS ISN'T ENOUGH, MAKE IT THREE.... Based on the current schedule, the Senate Democratic leadership intends to wrap the lame-duck session on Dec. 17 -- a week from Friday. Given this extremely tight calendar, and Republican delaying tactics, a whole lot of observers on both sides of the fight believe there won't be enough time to vote on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or a host of other issues.

I made the case over the weekend that there's an alternative: don't quit on the 17th; work the following week. As it turns out, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) agrees.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wants the Senate to stay in session until it's passed legislation to do away with the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Lieberman, a key Senate proponent of repealing the military's ban on openly gay or lesbian members, doesn't want the chamber to adjourn until it's acted on a defense authorization bill that contains a provision to do away with the policy.

"Sen. Lieberman believes that there are at least 60 votes to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' this year, provided that leadership allows time for sufficient debate and amendments," Lieberman spokeswoman Erika Masonhall said. "Wanting to go home is not an acceptable excuse for failing to pass a bill that provides essential support for our troops and veterans and failing to take action that the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for."

I haven't agreed so strongly with a statement from Lieberman's office in quite a while.

Indeed, this seems like an easy call. The Dec. 17 deadline is arbitrary and self-imposed, and effectively gives the chamber less than two weeks to craft and pass a tax deal, fund the government, ratify New START, and bring DADT repeal, the DREAM Act, the corrected food-safety bill, and several other items to the floor.

Without significant Republican cooperation, there's simply no way to tackle all of these issues. And given that the notion of significant Republican cooperation is completely laughable, the leadership has a choice: work the third week in December or give up on critically important issues that have no shot whatsoever in the next Congress.

So why not work the week of Dec. 20? Senators could still be home for Christmas, and Harry Reid wouldn't have to tell his own allies, "We could have gotten DADT repeal done, but senators wanted another week off for vacation, so U.S. troops will have to continue having their rights denied for a few more years."

Poking around this morning, I've noticed a growing number of folks who are on board with giving the Senate an extra week to get DADT done. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart is on board, as are Igor Volsky and Adam Serwer.

To be sure, adding an extra week wouldn't guarantee success, but it would at least give worthwhile measures a fighting chance. Reid already threatened to keep the Senate around until Christmas Eve. Why not do just that?

Steve Benen 12:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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How much leeway does Reid have with this stuff?

I've never understood why it's not a bludgeon he can use to twist some arms.

Posted by: gussie on December 6, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, these people BEGGED to get these jobs. We have until January 1 to accomplish something. Forego vacations. Stay until the work gets done. You Senators owe it to the Ameican people to do what we elected you for.!

Posted by: candideinnc on December 6, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate can certainly stay around to get their essential work done. During my thirty some years working for the federal government I worked through planned vacation times, lost use or lose time and generally accommodated my work requirements. Certainly the members of the self-styled "Greatest Deliberative in the World" can manage to do their work. If not, the democrats should be raising holy hell over the lack of republicans commitment to their responsibilities.

Posted by: wordtypist on December 6, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

All the things you mentioned should be the price for extending the Bush tax cuts.

Posted by: km on December 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I made this point before, but here it goes again:

We have thousands of troops overseas right now, and they don't get time off for the Holidays. There's limited time to pass legislature till the next congress convenes - so, Democrats, suck it up and work until the last minute of the last hour that this Senate still has power to wield. If that means you have to miss the Holidays with your families: so be it. If Private Jones in Afghanistan is willing to sacrifice that much for his country - so should you.

Posted by: delNorte on December 6, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any reason they couldn't be called back into session on 12/27, to work up until the new congresscritters get sworn in? i guess it wouldn't be as late as 1/20, but is there an official date that the new congress starts? and if so, why not work until then, with just the standard federal holidays (12/24 and 12/31) off?

or is that asking the congresscritters to work too much like actual federal employees???

Posted by: els on December 6, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK
... Reid already threatened to keep the Senate around until Christmas Eve. Why not do just that?

I'd keep them in session until Emmer concedes his Gov. race in MN.
I know there is no connect, but WTF? I can connect if I so desire... and after that I'd keep them in DC just for the fuck of it.

Posted by: cwolf on December 6, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

How utterly removed from the reality of most Americans must Senators be to feel ENTITLED to taking half of December off when there is so much work to be done (even if your job is just obstruction)? The Dems might win some points with the proles if they start acting like they want to stay and work while the Republicans insist on slithering back to their lairs to rest up for ritual burning that will be the 112th congress.

Posted by: Gaia on December 6, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Staying longer would also give Democrats the moral high ground ("Look, we're willing to stay here as long as it takes to work for the American people, while the Republicans are whining about missing their flights to Cancun.") and some legislative leverage: Republicans will have to choose whether they want to stick it out and obstruct everything to the end, or fold so they can go home.

It might be the last bit of leverage (short of the "nuclear option") that the Democrats have. Besides, they'll be plenty of opportunities to slack off in the next 2 years once the "Do-nothings" are sworn it.

Posted by: delNorte on December 6, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

You'll pardon me if I don't take this latest thing from Joementum all that seriously. Even if he hasn't yet given up on getting re-elected, and is using this as a PR tool, I still think he's setting up the football for Lucy somehow. Obviously he thinks there's something in it for him, but I just don't see him making common cause with the Democrats at this point, even if he's more terrified of the new GOP than full of vicious spite toward the hated, decadent Left. I think he just wants to use this as a bargaining chip to get something out of McConnell, and as soon as he's got it, he'll oh-so-regretfully find some way to line up with his fellow "centrists" to kill something that the Democrats want. That way he gets the PR boost for being on the "right side", along with the power boost for being on the Right Side.

Posted by: JohnR on December 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Can't see a legitimate reason to take the time off with so much to be done. Especially with one side obstructing everything it can. Keep 'em through the end of December, if that's what it takes. Some of the infamous collegiality of the Senate may be in jeopardy if the family vacation has to be rescheduled again. And that's a good thing..

Until the GOP senators start paying a price for their shenanigans, this stuff will continue.

Posted by: danimal on December 6, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Once the tax bill is passed and the CR for the balance of 2011 is agreed, nothing else will pass the Senate anyway. Why shouldn't the Senators go home.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

People are frustrated with Obama because he does not engage in the Mafia tactics of the GOP.

Maybe we need a new Eliot Ness in government to take down the GOP Gangsters?

How anyone can vote for these Republicans, who use anything the people actually want, and hold it hostage until they get their payola (when they are in the minority; when they are in the majority, they are 100% in the 'protection racket' -- you know, pay us everything you've got and then borrow more so we can 'protect you').

But the American press is enamored of these pretty despicable guys, just as America was enamored of the Mafia.

Posted by: jjm on December 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

If I understand the rules of your Senate, it takes 60 votes to overcome objection, so as long as one Rep sticks around, the other 41 can go home. Leaving all the Dems there without the ability to actually accomplish anything.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on December 6, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, make 'em work on Christmas. As there is no religious test for office, there's no need to worry about an religious holiday;>

Posted by: martin on December 6, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, and make them work until Janurary 18. That will give Obama one day to make all of the recess appts he needs to make.

Posted by: martin on December 6, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

We need to realize that we progressives are a small bunch of dickish whiners who haven't got on board with the vast majority of people who are willing to give up their own tax cuts to make sure the overlords get theirs. I know that is true. That was the clear message on MSNBC this morning. If MSNBC says that its own viewers are a small bunch of whiners who really should just get with the program, then who are we to complain about Obama's failure to have a spine.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 6, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

What exactly is supposed to change if they stay in session? Will the Republicans magically stop opposing everything, given an extra week to work on it?

Posted by: ed g. on December 6, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh yeah, and make them work until Janurary 18. That will give Obama one day to make all of the recess appts he needs to make."
Posted by: martin on December 6, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Unless it has changed when I wasn't looking, The Constitution (20th Amendment, Section 2) mandates that a new Congress convene at noon on
January 3 in each odd numbered year, unless it has earlier passed a law designating a different

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on December 6, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it that I can't help but think if it were the democrats who were putting up such a level of obstruction that my ears would be ringing from the constant shouts of "TREASON!" from FOX and the right....especially around the START bill?

Posted by: victory on December 6, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around this mountain-out-of-a-molehill problem. It's just too ridiculously easy to fix: Just tell James Inhofe, "No Christmas for you!"---and it'll be passed without debate in less than a week. Tell him we're seceding from the Union and declaring ourselves to be an independent confederation of Agnostic Bible-Burning Communists---and it'll be done in under thirty minutes.


Posted by: S. Waybright on December 6, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm all for everyone observing their own religious traditions, really I am, but would it be rude to point out that Lieberman is Jewish? Hanukhah ends this week. What does Lieberman care if Congress is in session on Christmas?

Posted by: TVo on December 6, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I make the case where I can: "My way or the highway" is not the American way. You don't negotiate with terrorists. Whoever framed tax cuts for the masses as being "held hostage" did good. Since much that is essential must still be done, Reid should keep the Senate in session 24/7 straight through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve until the ball drops, because they can't afford to take time off while sending the unemployed to soup kitchens for the holidays. If we can't have bread, there can be C-Span circuses while the nation watches that hot new reality show "Republicans in Action."

Posted by: Tomm Undergod on December 6, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Adding in the week before Xmas would require Senate Democrats to have a spine, so they could stand up to the Republican whining about not being able to spend time with their families during this "family holiday."

Posted by: TCinLA on December 6, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think Joe and John are still best buds after this?

Posted by: patrick II on December 6, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans can demand that nothing else will be done until the tax extension issue is settled, then the Democrats should demand that Congress won't adjourn until DADT repeal, DREAM, and New START are passed. Maybe that will encourage the foot-draggers to pick up their feet.

Posted by: Seould on December 6, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Lieberman will turn Republican soon after the new year.

Posted by: John B. on December 6, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

If Jesus can toss the money lenders out then Reid should lock the Republicans in. Lock them in with bread and water and threaten to pump out the hot air. And cancel all flights out of McCain International. We don't want McCrusty sneaking out on Redneck One to pinch any stewardness's behinds until he acts like a grown up.

Posted by: max on December 6, 2010 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK
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