Make Em Talk
It's really too bad that we now have a new rule that nothing ever passes the Senate without 60 votes. I'm not sure when this became business as usual, but the media seem to have absorbed it as if it were set forth in the constitution. No explanations necessary, just a matter of fact.
Kevin Drum beat me to it, but I'm going to re-run the same chart he did to illustrate what a crock this is:
As Kevin says:
As you can see, Republicans aren't just obstructing legislation at normal rates. They're obstructing legislation at three times the usual rate. They're absolutely desperate to keep this stuff off the president's desk, where the only choice is to either sign it or else take the blame for a high-profile veto.
As things stand, though, Republicans will largely avoid blame for their tactics. After all, the first story linked above says only that the DC bill "came up short in the Senate" and the second one that the habeas bill "fell short in the Senate." You have to read with a gimlet eye to figure out how the vote actually broke down, and casual readers will come away thinking that the bills failed because of some kind of generic Washington gridlock, not GOP obstructionism...Would it really be so hard for reporters to make it clear exactly who's responsible for blocking these bills?
Uhm, yes. Aside from telling gripping "stories" about the candidates' inner psychological selves the media believes it has no responsibility to report anything but who's up and who's down and who "wins" and who "loses" in the "game" of politics. The fact that this new 60-vote gambit is purely to protect the president to ever have to veto anything that's popular never comes up. Neither, however, does the the press bother to report this as unusual or that the Republican congress is, in effect, vetoing popular legislation by filibustering everything in sight. In fact, the press is reporting this as if the democrats have failed to move their popular legislation even though they have a majority --- never mentioning that a majority is no longer enough, something that I doubt the public knows.
The Democrats are going to have to force real filibusters. I know that it will disrupt the business of the senate, but there's really no other choice. Look at that chart. The Republicans have successfully halted virtually anything worth doing with these EZ-Filibusters. Forget cloture. Make 'em talk.
I'm still looking forward to hearing Huckleberry Graham doing his dramatic reading of Miss Mellie's death scene. And I hear St John McCain does an amazing rendition of Captain Queeg's "strawberries" soliloquy. Let 'em stand there and blather on until they're hoarse. It's the only way to break this silly deadlock and instruct the country about who's stopping the congress from getting anything done. The press certainly isn't getting the job done. Everybody's blaming the Dems for being ineffectual so they really have no choice but to force these Republicans to filibuster for real or risk paying the price at the ballot box when the Republicans run against the "do-nothing congress."
The restore habeas bill only got 54 votes today. A majority, which had the senate's business been conducted as properly conceived would have either resulted in the Republicans standing up for days and defending the use of torture and indefinite imprisonment or they would have caved and forced their delicate little prince to have to veto the damned thing. Either way it would have been clear that it was the Republicans who like torture, not the Democrats.
And surprisingly, torture and indefinite imprisonment aren't actually popular:
A solid 63% majority of American voters say they favor passage of legislation that would "give Guantánamo detainees the legal right to have their detention reviewed in federal court, and require the government to demonstrate that it has a lawful reason to imprison them." Only one-third (32%) of voters express opposition. This level of support for habeas is more impressive still when one considers that survey participants had been informed that the detainees are "accused terrorists."
Support for the habeas legislation is broad, extending across many demographic lines (see table). For example, we find majority support among both men and women; among whites, African Americans, and Hispanics; and in all regions of the country. Crucial swing political constituencies also voice solid approval, including 66% of independents, 69% of presidential swing voters, and 71% of moderates. Although Republicans are opposed by 58% to 39%, strong opposition is limited to a narrow political base of conservative Republicans (66% opposed) and GOP men (69% opposed). By contrast, a majority of GOP women (53%) and a plurality of moderate-to-liberal Republicans (50%) favor the habeas legislation.
Why should the Republicans in congress get away with shielding themselves and their loathed president from responsibility for doing all this stuff the public doesn't support? Make 'em explain themselves for as long as it takes to break their damned filibuster.
Update: Another good reason to make 'em stand up and defend this crap in a real filibuster:
Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post: "With a difficult war debate looming and presidential vetoes for a host of popular legislation threatened, moderate Republicans in Congress are facing a tough choice: Stand by President Bush or run for their political lives.
"Votes are due soon on Iraq, an expansion of a children's health insurance program and an array of spending bills. GOP leaders hope to use them to regain credibility with their base voters as a party for strong defense and fiscal discipline. But moderates, many of them facing the possibility of difficult reelection bids next year, are dreading the expected showdowns."
Republicans are between a rock and a hard place. Democrats should be squeezing as hard as they can.