Tuesday :: Apr 26, 2005

Democratic Senate Strategy

by Mary

Monday I joined Senator Harry Reid's blogger conference call to hear about how the Democrats plan to resist the Republican abuse of power as Majority Leader Frist leads the Senate off the nuclear option cliff.

Senator Reid started the call with the observation that things in Washington are upside down these days. The main reason for this state of affairs is that the President seems to be incapable of any moderation. As the Senator said, for Bush, every swing at the bat has to be a home run or a strike-out. There is no in-between. Because of this character flaw, the nation finds itself on the brink of a nasty powerplay as the Republicans attempt to pack the courts with extremist judges.

Senator Reid told us that the filibuster has had a long life in the United States extending back 217 years to the beginning of this government. But in those days, lots of nominees never got to the floor because there weren't any cloture rules. It wasn't until 1917 that the Senate revised their rules to let two-thirds of the Senate to vote to end the filibuster. And then in 1964 during the Civil Rights era the Senate dropped the number of votes to stop the debate to 60.

But today, the Republican leadership is vowing to change the rules so they don't have to negotiate with the opposition. As John Dean wrote recently this will change the Senate from a deliberative, conservative body that is more immune to the passions of the time to a rubber stamp for the President. This is not the checks and balances that the founding fathers envisioned for limiting the power of the government. The Republicans are threatening to destroy over two hundred years of deference to the rights of the minority because the President is incapable of moderation.

So what's Senator Reid's answer? He has told the Republican leadership that he will make them regret their blowing up the comity of the Senate. And Senator Reid assured us all 44 Democratic Senators will stand with him in this fight. If Frist gets enough votes to set off the nuclear option, the Democrats will end the deference to the Republican leadership in setting the agenda and instead bring up the issues that the public is interested in seeing addressed - health care, jobs, education, fiscal responsibility, etc. The Democrats will bring these issues to the floor and Republicans will be forced to go on record with their votes on each issue, up or down. This is *not* what the ordinary Senator wants.

Senator Reid said that he has been approached by more than a few Republicans who express the hope that Reid can find a way to stop the radical power grab. And he reported that this nuclear option tactic has been condemned by Alan Simpson, Bob Dole and William Armstrong, all venerable retired Republican leaders. He praised the Republicans who put their country and the constitution above their party in this situation.

And as I mentioned last night, Senators that are being targeted by Frist's hellhounds need to know they have support on their side if they decide to buck the President. Senator Reid asked that we contact the Senators that are under most pressure and urge them to stand against this extreme tactic. The Senators to contact are: Collins and Snowe of Maine, Chafee of RI, Hagel of Nebraska, McCain of Arizona, Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Graham of South Carolina, Lugar of Indiana, Specter of Pennsylvania, and Warner of Virginia.

One other thing that Senator Reid confirmed in this call is that if the John Bolton nomination gets to the floor, we will see Democrats filibustering his nomination.

Other takes on this call can be found by dKos' Armando, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, MyDD's Chris Bowers, BOP's Ellen Dana Nadler, and Air American's Ben Wikler.

Mary :: 12:45 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!