Politics & Policy

A Minority to be Reckoned With

The nonbinding anti-surge resolution that Democrats conceived as an easy, free way to score political points met its demise (for now) when Democrats realized it would not be as easy or free as they had hoped.

Under Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republicans have quickly gotten the hang of serving in a minority that can successfully frustrate Harry Reid’s partisan maneuvering on the war in Iraq. At the conclusion of the Senate’s always-confusing filibuster/cloture/motion-to-proceed machinations this week, the New York Times scolded Senator Reid for being outmaneuvered by Senate Republicans and failing in his attempt to get a majority of the Senate on the record in opposition to the troop surge in Iraq.

Reid was done in when Senate Republicans insisted that they be permitted to offer an alternative to the Levin/Warner nonbinding resolution against the surge. When Reid refused to allow a vote on a resolution by Sen. Judd Gregg opposing any cut-off of funds for troops in the field, Republicans mounted a filibuster that Reid’s forces were unable to overcome. With only two defections, by Sens. Norm Coleman and Susan Collins, Republicans united behind their call for a full and fair debate on alternative options for the war.

Democrats wanted to oppose the politically unpopular troop surge with a nonbinding resolution that divided Republicans without facing a politically perilous vote on cutting off war funds that divided Democrats, so Reid refused to yield. Thus, Reid “blocked the debate” on the Iraq resolution as much as Republicans, although the headlines said otherwise. At least the New York Times editorial board — again — got it right when it said the Democrats’ goal of formally rebuking President Bush was made more difficult by “allowing the Republicans to maneuver them into the embarrassing position of blocking a vote on a counterproposal that [Democrats] feared too many Democrats might vote for.”

Under Harry Reid’s command, Senate Democrats had been confident that they had President Bush in their crosshairs. But war plans seldom survive contact with the enemy.


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