Liveblogging the Senate floor debate (refresh for latest updates)…
Update 1:04pm Eastern. Teddy Kennedy has sent a new amendment on the education bill to the desk. SA 2327. A Senate source tells me that while this stuff is going on on the floor, there are negotiations happening behind the scenes on the homeland security appropriations bill. Lots of other activity on the Hill–including Condi Rice hitting the pavement: “Among lawmakers scheduled to meet with Rice were Biden, Smith, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.”
Speaking of Kennedy, by the way, it was 38 years ago today…
Update 12:41pm Eastern. Specter is objecting to Reid’s shenanigans and tactics. “It’s not just rude, but dictatorial.” Call the waaahmbulance. Just to give you an idea about what’s going on behind the scenes: After pulling the defense authorization bill from the floor, Reid tossed up cloture votes on homeland security and education funding bills in anticipation that Republicans would object–giving him fodder for his “See, they’re obstructionists!” moaning–as he obstructs progress on the defense authorization bill.
Double blech: Joe Biden is running for president on Senate floor time.
Update 11:55am Eastern. Guess who’s taking credit for the Senate slumber party? Air America (hat tip: Tim Graham).
Roll added on the Levin-Reed amendment vote (just a reminder that Reid changed his vote to no for procedural reasons).
Update 11:42am Eastern. Eeenteresting. Reid moves for consideration of the homeland security appropriations bill, HR2638. McConnell: Asks when the bill will be taken up. Next week? Reid says now. McConnell objects for the moment. Reid moves for cloture vote. Now, he’s moving to cloture vote on education bill. Specter objects. Notes that slumber party was a “colossal waste of time.” Reid cuts him off. There’s a vote going on now on the higher ed bill.
Update 11:26am Eastern FAILED TO REACH 60-VOTE THRESHOLD…52-47. Droopy dog Harry Reid (who switched his vote to no for procedural reasons) is back on the floor to whine. Castigates Republicans for “supporting the president instead of our troops.” Here comes a serving of BDS/MoveOn talking points: Troops were taken to war “falsely, prematurely, and recklessly.” Wants up-down votes on four other amendments in exchange for up-down on Levin-Reed.
McConnell reserves right to object. Quotes Claude Raines in Casablanca, “Gambling in Casablanca? Round up the usual suspects.” McConnell jibes: “60 votes in the Senate? As common as gambling in Casablanca.”
Reid and McConnell sparring. Reid getting all righteous about McConnell’s Casablanca jibe. “This is not a movie. This is serious.” Tell that to Durbin and his joke toothbrush-toting staffers.
Reid: “We’ll come back to this bill as soon as it’s clear we can make real progress.” Just like he’ll revisit shamnesty…
Update 11:01am Eastern. Cloture vote about to begin. First, Reid asks that senators cast votes from their desks and wants chaplain to pray. “If there were ever a time to pray, it is before this vote.” Motion to invoke cloture is read. 60 votes needed to advance Levin-Reed. Mandatory quorum call has been waived. Stand by…lots of empty seats…GOP senators who support Levin-Reed have cast their Ayes: Collins, Hagel, Smith, and Snowe…Boy George Voinovich is a no…
While we’re waiting, I forgot to note for all the procedural geeks that there was a procedural vote cast at 5:13am on H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 ), passed 37-23, with 40 not voting (presumably snoozing in those cots).
Update 10:50am Eastern. Harry Reid thanks all the employees in the Capitol complex–you know, the ones who had to pick up all of his staff’s pizza boxes.
Now, Reid pats himself on the back: “I would hope that these past two days have shined a bright light on how important our work here is in the Senate.”
Never mind how important the work of our troops are on the ground in every front on the war on terror.
What a narcissist.
Hey, Harry: Where’s Tommy?
Update 10:42am Eastern. McConnell is up–“Anyone tuning in to this debate might have thought they were tuning into an episode of the ‘Twilight Zone.'” Mocks Dems protesting the 60-vote threshhold…With respect to my colleagues asking to let them vote, I say we will vote. But the question is whether it will take 60 votes on a very serious amendment…Last night’s theatrics accomplished nothing…nearly all newspapers noted we could have had a vote…after all the gags, gimmicks, giggles, empty pizza boxes, and cots, we still don’t know what this measure would really mean for our troops, allies, interests…What would the Levin amendment do?”
Update 10:37am Eastern. Co-sponsors of the amendment, Reed and Levin, urge passage of the measure. Levin whining about not being able to vote up or down.
Update 10:33am Eastern. Oh, gag. Schumer is on the floor objecting to “cut and run…That’s the same kind of dangerous, nasty sloganeering that got us into this mess in the first place. The other side has a penchant for avoiding serious debate.”
Update 10:24am Eastern. McCain is back on the floor, chastising the stunt Dems for conducting the exhibition for the amusement of the press corps and appeasement of anti-war forces…they are “substituting theatrics for statesmanship.” I’m giving him some credit: He is reading a good script, but he is no Coburn, Thune, Sessions, or Lieberman. “As long as we have a chance to succeed, we must try to succeed…I will stand where I stand and take comfort that I took responsibilities to my country seriously despite by flaws…in an hour of serious peril…”
Update 10:15pm Eastern. Durbin, Obama, Biden join the parade for Levin-Reed.
Update 10:06am Eastern. Caffeine injection–John Cornyn is speaking. “I don’t believe our presence in Iraq is merely optional. I don’t believe our colleagues who say the only thing that is missing is pressure on Iraqi government…I believe the consequences of (withdrawing) would be disastrous for American national security…blasts Dems who want instant resolution on oil revenue-sharing when American government can’t solve insolvency of our Social Security system…I just think that some of my colleagues are taking an unrealistic approach to how fast we expect Iraqi govt to solve its problems…if you listen not to the armchair generals in Washington, D.C., but to the generals on the ground, Gen. Petraeus, they have stated clearly the consequences of failure to the United States…War is an interactive affair. We can quit fighting, but it doesn’t mean our enemies will. It’s almost as if some of our colleagues want to pull the sheets over their heads and pretend the threat doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, life is not that simple and the threat is not so illusory.”
Update 9:58am Eastern. Okay, I take that award back and give it to Jeff Bingaman, now droning on about Abu Ghraib.
Update 9:38am Eastern: Award for most boring reading of BDS talking points goes to Frank Lautenberg. Get me one of those Senate cots STAT.
Update 8:30am Eastern. While the Senators drone, U.S. captures leader of Islamic State of Iraq. More here. Jules Crittenden notes that some wobbly Republicans who were distancing themselves from Bush are now wobbling away from the Dems. And Rick Moran boils down last night’s debate: “Last night was about the politics of blame pure and simple. It was about the Democrats being terrified that caving in to their base on Iraq and bringing the troops home in a Dunkirk style evacuation will precipitate a chain of events in Iraq and the Middle East that would result in genocide, war, and al-Qaeda triumphant. Being politicians with finely honed instincts for survival and with absolutely no clue about what to do in Iraq (join the club, guys), they seek to shift responsibility for the coming catastrophe precipitated by our withdrawal and all the blunders, errors, mistakes, and stupidities that have marked our adventure in Mesopotamia these last 4 years in order to be able to face the voters and point the finger at their political foes.”
Don Surber weighs in and lays in: “So the Senate stayed up last night? Thousands of troops stay up every night. They put in 12-hour days. They are beating an enemy that wants to kill us. Reid’s stunt — his word — showed the American people what pampered babies senators are — and how incompetent the Democratic Party’s leaders are. Bush’s approval is 29%? So what? That is still double the 14% confidence rate of the Democratic-controlled Congress. Bush may be nearing Carter levels on job approval, but Congressional Democrats have already bested the 19% record low they set a 14 years ago. How dare Reid complain about the Iraqi government? He cannot even pass a budget.”
Update 7:18am Eastern. Yes, I’m awake again. Mommy duties and multi-tasking on four hours’ sleep. Plus, we’re launching a new grass-roots campaign that I’ll be telling you much more about soon. Back on the Senate floor, Sens. Hatch, Allard, and Whitehouse have all had their turn at the podium. (Check comments for reviews of Sessions, Stabenow, Hillary, and Ken Salazzzzzzzar.) Mercifully, I haven’t seen the “LET US VOTE” placard yet and no one has waved around the ISG report in the last 10 minutes.
Update 2:48am Eastern. Snowe is still going. Plugged the ISG book. “This is a defining moment,” etc. John McCain is back. He must have had a No Doze. He’s tearing into Harry Reid.
Update 7/18 2:29am. Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe gave bleary-eyed speeches. Meantime, I just read the WaPo account of the party. Harry Reid trucked in piles of pizza. And Dick Durbin pulled a stunt for the stunt. What a clown senator he is:
The office of Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) dispatched interns to buy toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant for delivery to GOP leadership offices, with a note offering the “supplies for your sleepless night.” It added: “Help us bring an end to this war.”
Update 7/18 1:56am. John McCain–seems a little groggy–weighs in to remind the Senate about progress in Ramadi and Fallujah. Muddled about immigration, but clear-thinking about the war. Thune resumes. “I believe Gen. Petraeus will be very candid in September…I think we should give him and the troops a chance to succeed.”
Side note: Maybe it’s my eyes or my TV, but I swear Sen. Thune looks Oompa-Loompa orange.
Uh-oh. Sen. Webb interrupts to ask whether Thune agrees that there is as much diversity of opinion in the military about the war as there is in the Senate. Thune disagrees with the polls Webb quotes showing anti-war sentiment in the military. Webb continues to interrupt and violate floor rules. Thune: “My understanding is that the senator from Virginia has not traveled to Iraq. (Thune has been three times in three years). My experience is different from his…General view I’ve seen: They believe. They want a chance to succeed.”
Update 7/18 1:38am. Sen. Thune is up, and he’s a terrific injection of energy and clarity. He takes on the Dems’ false “Afghanistan war is good”/”Iraq war is bad” dichotomy. Notes that casualties are fewer in Afghanistan because we have fewer there and because the main fight is in Iraq. If we move soldiers to Afghanistan, they’ll kill more of them there. That’s what the enemy does. The Dems don’t understand that this is a titanic war between good and evil…the problem is it is the same enemy…intent on the same objective…we have to fight al Qaeda every place we can…History has shown that fighting wars by committee does not work…”
Debate sparkplugs: Lieberman, Coburn and Thune.
Debate snoozers: Harkin, Akaka, Feinstein, and Alexander.
Update 7/18 1:29am. Sen. Harkin has bleated “Let us vote, let us vote” at least a dozen times. Uh, just a reminder. Reid and McConnell agreed on a procedural vote no earlier than 5am and a scheduled cloture vote at 11am. Harkin plods on: “Just let us vote.”
Eyelids. Feeling. Heavy.
Update 7/18 12:45am Eastern. Akaka is sleep-walking through his speech. Tom Coburn follows him and the contrast couldn’t be greater. I hope the Coburn people post his extemporaneous remarks. Thoughtful, compassionate, measured, penetrating–without the maudlin theatrics, shouting, gimmick placards, and staff-fed soundbite lines. He does his constituents and the GOP proud.
Re. cloture, Coburn notes: “It’s a precedent that the Senate has had for years…the question we ought to be asking…is..one vote (on Levin-Reed) should not make or break..the rest of the defense authorization bill…”
On Darfur vs. Iraq, Coburn notes his work on Darfur and says: “Darfur is going to be a blip on the screen compared to what will happen to Iraq if we leave now…”
Coburn responds directly to Menendez’s diatribe: “I don’t believe we need to have our moral compasses checked. We just happen to have a difference of opinion…the Iraq war is a perplexing situation for all of us. I believe it is wrong for us to stop in the middle of a surge, which is having some progress–not as much as we’d like, but some–it is my hope that we’ll recognize that the most important question is “Then what?” What happens if the Reed-Levin amendment becomes law? What happens to our troops? What happens in Iraq? Iran? The morale of our military? The rest of the world, when we can no longer be counted upon as a reliable partner? …History will judge this nation on how it handles this situation. We may in fact walk away, but if we do, we belie the heritage of so many who have sacrificed for us in the past…”
Update 7/18 12:27am Eastern.
Aw, poor Harry Reid is tired. He has just asked for the cloture vote to be scheduled for 11am today. We’re going to have another vote sometime later this morning…another vote not before 5am…
McConnell weighs in…clarifies he wants no other procedural roll call votes before 5am…
Will Harry sleep in one of the cots or in his own comfy bed?
You know, all this hoopla about those damned roll-away beds reminded me of what it’s really like to rough it. Remember?
Update 7/18 12:06am Eastern. Jim Hoft has video clips up, including Joe Lieberman, who said tonight: “Some have said this is the only amendment with teeth- But, who does it bite?… This amendment mandates a retreat no matter what the conditions are on the ground… This is an amendment to embrace defeat in Iraq.”
And you know the photo of Menendez and the Dems’ whiny “LET US VOTE” placard that I just posted? Jim Hoft has already started the Photoshop fun. Fish in a barrel!
Update 11:54pm Eastern. Menendez is still pushing “majority vote for majority rule.” He blasts the Republicans who “want freedom of Iraq” but who are a “tyranny of the minority” here at home.
Nutroots will love that red meat moral equivalence.
Menendez: “We want the nightmare to end.” I want this diatribe to end!
11:35pm Eastern. Here’s the placard all the Dems are using as a prop…
Reader David points out how the Democrats now want an “up or down vote” now, but opposed the same request from Bill Frist when he was the majority leader: “‘Just let the Senate vote’ they say now, but they denied that very thing when they were the minority.”
11:28pm Eastern. Menendez is playing the chickenhawk card: “If more members of the Senate had family members in Iraq, blahblahblah.” He has now demanded a “majority vote for majority rule” seven times. (Democrats want a simple majority to move Levin-Reed forward; GOP wants 60-vote threshold. Dems only have 51 votes.) “Majority vote for majority rule.” Again. Another one for the Senate slumber party drinking game. More Menendez: “There must be a date certain…a date certain…the message of this body must be ‘if you won’t bring the troops home, we will.'” The “real challenge” is Iran, he says. A reconstituted al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
And the solution to those would be?
Diplomacy! Diplomacy! Diplomacy!
11:21pm Eastern. Collins is holding up the ISG book again. Is she getting a cut of the royalties or what?
Update 11:08pm Eastern. Susan Collins plugs the Iraq Study Group book. I think this is the third senator I’ve seen do that. If you’re playing a Senate floor slumber party drinking game, add this one to the list.
As for me, I need coffee!
Update 10:58pm Eastern. Oh, God. Sherrod Brown is playing the armor card, reading his staff’s notes about IEDS and Humvees. He’s stuttering and stumbling. Painful. Bring back Joe. The disingenuous whine of the Dems is “LET US VOTE,” a placard Dem senators keep posing in front of through the night. Which party is in the majority?
10:11pm Eastern. Joe Lieberman explains why he will vote against cloture tomorrow morning. “Will we sustain what is a bedrock policy of the Senate to require 60 votes on a matter of great importance to this body? Particularly a matter where there is a lot at stake. This amendment…is a very serious amendment. Some of us believe it would have disastrous consequences for our troops, the region…”
…“The American military will never lose the war in Iraq…if lost, it will be lost by a lack of political will.”
Update 9:59pm Eastern. Mary Landrieu: “This is not a stunt.” Au contraire.
Speaking of stunts, Landrieu pulls her own floor stunt with her gesticulating about how we should be spending all the money going to the Iraq war on finding Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Uh, which party has the most vocal voices calling for pulling out of Afghanistan? Yeah.
Update 9:40pm Eastern. Sorry, but Lamar Alexander is making me sleepy. Droning about the Hamilton-Baker report. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
Update 9:20pm Eastern. Dianne Feinstein does her monotone body-count monologue. Recycles Lugar. If anyone believes the war has improved our image, “you’re smoking something,” she jibes. Proposes “repairing America’s image” and “engagement” as the solutions to the Iraq war, stopping nuclear proliferation in Iran, and quelling Muslim violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “I really believe this.” You’re smoking something, DiFi.
Bottom line: She basically writes off Gen. Petraeus and the troops. Senators in the gallery applaud.
Update 9:04pm Eastern. There was a motion to instruct the sergeant-at-arms to require the attendance of absent senators. The motion was rejected: 44-yea, 47-nay. But there is a quorum.
McConnell now on the floor…The troops “deserve our resolve…It’s time to end this charade.”
And here’s an excerpt from Kay Bailey Hutchison’s speech:
“It appears that the basic message is to tell the president to change strategy or to tell the generals what to do or to micromanage the war. All different kinds of messages are being proposed. But the bottom line, Mr. President, is that we cannot tell the Commander in Chief, the President, nor the commander on the ground, General Petraeus, how to do the jobs that we have asked them to do. You know, we heard from General Petraeus what the new strategy would be. I keep hearing people say, we need a new strategy. We need a new plan, a new plan. We’re in a new plan. And yet the United States Senate is saying, when the new plan is just in its infancy, when the surge of 30,000 troops has just been completed within the last two weeks, and yet we’re pulling the rug out from under the new plan.
“We cannot be the greatest country on earth and say, don’t trust us if you’re our ally and don’t fear us if you’re our enemy. And that’s exactly what we would be doing if we leave Iraq because Congress sets a deadline, regardless of what is happening on the ground in Iraq.
“This is about a war on terror and protecting our freedom. This is not about Iraq in a bubble. It is about making sure that we kill terrorism in the world before it ruins everyone’s way of life and takes freedom from everyone.
“This is about making sure that Iraq does not become a stronghold for terrorists. This is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot take over Iraq, terrorize the people as they have done in Afghanistan for years, have the oil revenue that would feed their terrorism and spread it throughout the world. We are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.
“I met with a group of veterans today who had come back from Iraq. They were so strong and so firm. It was uplifting to talk to them, just as it is uplifting to talk to any of our active duty military. But to talk to those who have had the boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, who really know what’s happening, you just can’t fail to believe that we have to give this a chance, even if the armchair generals back here in Washington have misgivings.
“This is the policy that the United States Senate must stand for and that is to stand for the integrity of America. The integrity of the greatest country on earth, that we will be a formidable enemy and a reliable ally – that we will not flinch when times get tough. It is a legitimate argument about why we got here or when we should have had more troops or how the war has been run up to now. That is legitimate. We can talk about that and it is a legitimate area to debate. But what is not legitimate, Mr. President, is because it is a very tough time that we would say ‘times are too tough, America must leave.’ What kind of honor would that bring on our country and this United States Senate? None. It would not bring honor on this country to cut and run because times are tough.”
By the way, earlier this afternoon, the Senate voted on two war-related amendments. (Correction: Dorgan vote was on the 13th) The Cornyn amendment, “to express the sense of the Senate that it is in the national security interest of the United States that Iraq not become a failed state and a safe haven for terrorists,” passed 94-3, with 3 not voting.
The Dorgan amendment, on bringing Osama bin Laden and other leaders of al Qaeda to justice, passed 87-1, with 12 not voting.
7:43pm Eastern. I’m about to put my own kids to bed, but thought I’d open up a thread for comments if you’re watching the Senate all-nighter on the Levin-Reed amendment. Here’s the text. Here’s the latest AP dispatch:
Democrats steered the Senate into an attention-grabbing, all-night session to dramatize opposition to the Iraq war but conceded they were unlikely to gain the votes needed to advance troop withdrawal legislation blocked by Republicans.
“Our enemies aren’t threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
McConnell and many other Republicans favor waiting until September before considering any changes to the Bush administration’s current policy. They have vowed to block a final vote on the Democrats’ attempt to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days.
“We have no alternative except to keep them in session to explain their obstruction,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
So far, the legislation has drawn the support of three Republicans, Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
With a test vote set for Wednesday — capping a day and night of debate — Democratic officials conceded they were likely to get 52 or 53 votes at most. That’s well short of the 60 needed to force a final vote on the measure.
While the issue was momentous — a war now in its fifth year costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives — the proceedings were thick with politics.
MoveOn.org, the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expected to attend.
More to come…
Blackfive posts recent remarks by USMC Commandant, General Conway, on the long war.
Here’s a blogger report on Cindy Sheehan’s appearance in Charlotte, N.C. Excerpt:
I counted people. At the highest count, there were about 30 Gathering of Eagles folks, about 40-50 pro-Cindy professionals, about 20 press or people with cameras, and about 10 baseball players.
When Cindy’s entourage arrived (without Cindy), it appeared very, very rehearsed. A group made a long walk around with banners and took up a certain position. Then the hippie sang a song while the entourage sang along. Then a very, very angry man recited a poem. Then there was more singing, then another poem. A muslim spoke. Then more talking.
The group was very odd because they were only addressing themselves. Charlotte has a population of about 630,000 people. It seemed that almost none of them showed up — listening to the interviews, many people said they were from places other than Charlotte.
In case you missed it: Inside the war rooms.