Reid: Botching Another Opportunity
So Senate Democrats have once again had a week of disappointments and bad choices by Harry Reid. After seeing several wavering GOP senators like John Warner talk a good game and then soil their Depends once again and cave under White House pressure to vote against Jim Webb’s troop protection measure, 22 Senate Democrats found the energy to vote against MoveOn.org yesterday. Notwithstanding my personal rejection of the ad, it was foolish for any Senate Democrats to allow, and then vote in favor of such a piece of GOP crap without insisting that the resolution also include attacks against other war veterans, like the Swifties’ smear of John Kerry’s service record, and the NRSC’s smear against Max Cleland in 2002. But that is the price we pay for a Harry Reid leadership.
As for the bigger question, which is holding the Senate GOP accountable for refusing to even allow a vote on meaningful Iraq policy measures, Democrats had several choices. As I have said for months, the first choice was to:
1. Try first for an up or down vote on a withdrawal measure;
2. Then have a vote on compromise measures like Webb’s troop protection measure and the mission change measures; and
3. Failing on those, then back away from the table and put the burden on McConnell to round up 60 votes for another blank check funding resolution, tied to a media effort to portray the GOP as enablers of the status quo while our soldiers die and the Iraqis dawdle.
Instead, Reid went with Webb’s measure first and saw the GOP dig in once again to keep it from even coming to a vote. He now has decided to schedule withdrawal deadline votes over and over, knowing that they will not even come to a vote, in the false hope that the GOP will be shamed into eventually voting for one. They won’t. Why would the same GOP senators who voted to avoid a debate on Webb-Hagel suddenly then allow a vote on withdrawal? They have all drunk the Kool Aid. As expected, the Senate GOP has swatted down several withdrawal votes now with filibusters. Fine. As the NYT’s editorial board said today, let the GOP keep filibustering. Walk away from the table now Harry, and tell McConnell they can keep filibustering the Iraq funding into perpetuity. Tell McConnell to go get the votes for another blank check, and put it on them.
But by doing these wasted votes over and over again, Reid is demonstrating his own impotence, thereby undermining whatever other agenda he wanted to pursue over the next four weeks, like the SCHIP battle. On the other hand, note that Nancy Pelosi had the correct answer to John Boehner’s whimpering for a MoveOn vote in that chamber: forget it, we’re going to concentrate on real agenda items, not meaningless dog whistle crap for your base.
If Reid now knows that the Senate GOP will keep playing this game, he needs to cobble together one omnibus alternative that includes Webb-Hagel and whatever mission change proposal from Reed or Salazar or whomever has the whip hand at the time. He needs to try one more time with this as the one and only alternative to the "blank check" rubber stamp. And when McConnell filibusters this, then walk away and let the Senate GOP filibuster until hell freezes over.
When Bush begins to bellow about how it is the Senate's job to send him something he can sign, Reid should immediately correct him and say that it is not the Senate's job to be a rubber stamp, but rather to protect American troops and our national security, a responsibility that Bush has abandoned.