Mary Katharine Ham

Last night, the Democratic Party failed to get the requisite number of votes for cloture on the Iraq We Think You're Gonna Lose, and are Determined to Say So in a Totally Cowardly, Non-Binding, Kinda Way Which Requires No Political Sacrifice or Backbone Resolution.

Cloture requires 60 votes, ends debate on a topic, and allows for a vote on the floor. The vote was 49-47, so debate doesn't end, and the Levin Amendment doesn't come to an up-or-down vote.

Hugh has the list of Republican defectors, just in case you want to, you know, have a word with any of them:

Senator Lamar Alexander (TN): (202) 224-4944

Senator Norm Coleman (MN): (202) 224-5641

Senator Susan Collins (ME): (202) 224-2523

Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK): (202) 224-6665

Senator Gordon Smith (OR): (202) 224-3753

Senator John Sununu (NH): (202) 224-2841

Senator John Warner (VA): (202) 224-2023

Now, why is Fox the only outlet reporting that the "Democratic majority failed to shut off debate" instead of the Republicans succeeded in blocking debate. I am no parliamentary expert, that's for sure, but I do know cloture ends debate. So, how do Republicans voting against ending debate get accused of ending debate?

Since, I'm no parliamentary expert, I went to the AP Stylebook to check myself. After all, maybe I was wrong about the definition of cloture:

cloture: Not closure, for the parliamentary procedure for closing debate. Whenever practical, use a phrase such as closing debate or ending debate instead of the technical term.

Um, so what's with all the leads on these stories? Even AP doesn't know its own definition, apparently:

Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed to find a way to force President Bush to change course in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.
Did they, now? Perhaps there's a different AP Stylebook for when Democrats are in the majority-- an edition I have yet to be issued, which changes the definition of cloture to the exact opposite of what it is.

Back when Democrats were using filibustering to block up-or-down votes on judicial nominees-- an unprecendented use of the filibuster, mind you--all we heard from them is how the filibuster is a sacred bit of minority power in the Senate, and that Republicans just wanted to shove through fundy judicial nominees without a fair discussion of them and their merits. So, now that the Republicans use it in a legitimate way, on a resolution, suddenly it's a blocking of debate? Curious indeed.

Aren't we all still debating it? Seems to me I've been seeing plenty of Republicans and Democrats talking about it on TV and on the floor of the Senate, and they will continue to do so all week. Had the resolution proceeded to an up-or-down vote last night, no matter which way it went, everyone would have their political ammo, and they'd go back to slinging that instead of actually talking about it. This actually feels a bit healthier to me. Q&O confirms my feelings: (full disclosure: Q&O is the former blog home of Jon Henke, current blog guru for the Senate Minority Leader McConnell, just in case that makes a difference in how you read this)

Contrary to the implication of these "news" reports, the Democrats are attempting to end debate on a single resolution (and need 60 votes to do it) and force a vote on that single resolution without allowing others to be considered. By opposing cloture (which would stop debate), the Republicans are actually keeping debate open.

Or, said another way, Democrats want to prevent other resolutions from being considered. Republicans are attempting to keep debate open to force Democrats to consider and debate other resolutions and amendments.

“Ducking debates about our national defense has become too topical and typical in this country because we are unable to bring matters before this floor. No amendments, no votes, no debates—that is not the way to do a bill in the Senate.” (Sen. Harry Reid, Congressional Record, 10/05/05, p.S11061)

Quite a change of heart for Sen. Reid.

Here are some other examples of the new definition of "cloture":

Hagel acquiesces to block debate on non-binding Iraq Resolution

NYT: GOP Senators block debate on Iraq resolution

WaPo: GOP stalls debate on troop increase

I just can't believe they're managing to turn it around so effectively in the press. Joe Lieberman has a good take on it, from his floor speech:

Madam President, I'd say finally the 60-vote requirement to close debate was put in place by our predecessors as a way to make it harder for the passions of a particular moment to sweep through the American people and across this Congress in a way that would do serious damage to our nation in the long term.

Because I believe this resolution, if passed, would have such an effect, I will respectfully oppose the motion for cloture.

More on this later, but I wanted to get that thought out. Cloture. Look it up, MSM. It was something very different during the Republican majority, according to y'all.

 


Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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