Here’s what happens: A majority of the Senate wants to discuss and vote on legislation of crucial importance; legislation touching on basic civil liberties and a disastrous and unjustified war. A minority doesn’t want to discuss or vote on this legislation.
The Republicans threaten a filibuster. The Democrats go for a cloture vote but can’t raise the required 60 votes. At this point the Democrats wring their hands and whine that they’re helpless to do anything. Poor pitiful Democrats.
Excuse me? Of course the Democrats can do something: Let the minority launch its filibuster. Let’s force the Republicans to filibuster. I’d like the nation to see some team of lonely suits reading from the Congressional Record in a nearly empty Senate chamber rather than do the nation’s business.
When the Democrats back off after a failed cloture vote they hand the Republicans the equivalent of a successful filibuster, but without any effort on the Republicans’ part.
Let’s at least make ‘em work for it.
On September 21 the NY Times published an editorial from which I offer the following clips:
“If you were one of the Americans waiting for Congress, under Democratic control, to show leadership on the war in Iraq, the message from the Senate is clear: “Nevermind.” The same goes for those waiting for lawmakers to fix the damage done to civil liberties by six years of President Bush and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress.”
“On Wednesday, the Senate failed to vote on two major bills. One would have restored basic human rights and constitutional protections to hundreds of foreigners who are in perpetual detention, without charges or trial. The other was the one measure on the conduct of the Iraq war that survived the Democrats’ hasty retreat after last week’s smoke-and-mirrors display by Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush.
“There were votes, of course, but not on the bills. They were cloture votes, which require 60 or more Senators to agree to cut off debate, eliminating the possibility of a filibuster, so Senators can vote on the actual law. In both cases, Democrats were four votes short, with six Republicans daring to defy the White House.
“We support the filibuster as the only way to ensure a minority in the Senate can be heard. When the cloture votes failed this week, the Democrats should have let the Republicans filibuster. Democratic leaders think that’s too risky, since Congress could look like it’s not doing anything. But it’s not doing a lot now.”