Withdrawal Language Survives!

Looks like the Cochran amendment was defeated and the withdrawal language stays in the bill, for now. That's a big deal.

My earlier cynicism notwithstanding, kudos to Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and the Senate leadership!  I'm told that we lost Pryor, held Nelson, and gained Smith and Hagel. I'll update as soon as I confirm.

Update (Chris): The vote is up on the Senate Roll Call page now, so it is confirmed. Senator Feingold, the first Senator to come out in favor of a timetable, and who once again has turned a majority of one into a voting majority in the Senate, just issued the following statement:
Today marks an important step toward ending the war in Iraq . For the first time, the U.S. Senate will pass binding legislation requiring the President to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq . While this is long overdue, it is a big step in the right direction and it brings us closer to ending our involvement in this disastrous war.
The only Democrat who voted to strike the withdrawal language was Mark Pryor. I don't care what state he is from--that is the sort of issue that could cause you to lose either a primary or a general election. There isn't a state in the country that currently has a majority in favor of the war, or against this bill. Even moderate Republicans are split.

Tags: Ben Nelson, Chuck Hagel, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Harry Reid, Iraq, Joe Lieberman, Mark Pryor (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

good job Reid! proud today of my senator!

by nevadadem 2007-03-27 01:47PM | 0 recs
Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?

Like I said before, losing the vote on the Cochran Amendment most likely wouldn't affect the end result.

Nor will winning the vote.

Not to say that a win won't be good for morale and a confidence-booster for the leadership, and have other short-term benefits.

But, the key fight is with Bush when (as seems almost inevitable) a supplemental bill passes Congress which is unacceptable to him.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?
I think you underestimated this vote. Reid might have caved, and supported a blank check bill. There still would have been ways to prevent that, but this helps us. A lot.
by Chris Bowers 2007-03-27 01:56PM | 0 recs
That's what I don't see

As McConnell recognized in his comments yesterday, the final text of the bill will be that drafted by a conference with a Dem majority of conferees for each house. The Dem leaderships could even exclude the GOP from any representation if they wanted.

So whether the amendment passed or failed was only ever going to have a temporary effect.

If the Senate conferees had decided, as a result of the Cochran Amendment passing, that they would not support a withdrawal provision in the bill - well, the House conferees wouldn't have accepted that. And I find it hard to think that Reid could have found too many Dem senators who would have supported such a position!

I'm not saying that, had it passed, Reid wouldn't have wanted to cave. What I am puzzled about is where in the legislative process there would have been the practical opportunity for him to do so!

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 02:08PM | 0 recs
We have more momentum.

There is no conceivable way that the conference bill will not have a timetable since both houses passed one.  If the Senate had failed to do so, theoretically, the conference could have removed it as part of the negotiations.  Since they passed it, its existence will not be a point of contention.

by you like it 2007-03-27 02:20PM | 0 recs
But both leaderships support a timetable!

As do the overwhelming majority of their members.

Even had the Cochran Amendment passed, I can see no circumstances in which the Senate conferees, representing the majority view in the Dem Senate party, would have opposed a timetable provision being reinserted in the conference report text.

(They might well argue over the nature of the timetable. No doubt, they still will, when we get round to the conference. But they would be right behind the principle of there being a timetable in the bill.)

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 02:27PM | 0 recs
For the sake of argument...

I'll grant you that the conference bill would likely have had a timetable.  Nonetheless this is a huge victory for two reasons.

1.  There is now no possible argument or reason why the conference bill should not have a timetable.  If the bill had failed the Senate, Republican conferees would have argued that since such a timetable had not passed the Senate, the conference bill should not have a timetable.  That argument is eviscerated by this result.  Who can say for sure if the Democratic Senators would not have caved?  They did so on the minimum wage bill.

2.  If the timetable had been stripped from this Senate bill, what are the chances that the one that the conference agreed to would have passed.  Once again, it may have passed anyway, but this result makes it virtually certain.

by you like it 2007-03-27 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: For the sake of argument...

One your first reason, what the GOP Senate conferees say will not affect the outcome: the conferees from each house vote on each matter separately, so the Dems are assured of a majority. (I doubt whether any Dem senators who are not sure votes for the leadership position will find themselves as conferees!)

(The minimum wage bill was quite different; there the vote on the text without sweeteners was taken to show that the bill wouldn't pass without sweeteners.

In the conference on HR 1591, the Dems will have no problem passing their preferred text (so long as both leaderships agree on it).

On the conference report, the GOP have the choice of filibustering or leaving the bill to Bush to deal with. That was pretty much always going to be their choice. Apparently, they're going with the second option.

But the result either way would not be affected by whether the timetable was struck out and reinserted in conference, or never struck out at all.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 02:59PM | 0 recs
Hypothetically, if the timetable didn't pass

I don't see how the fact that the conferees from each house voting separately makes it more likely that the Dems would prevail.  In my view it would make it less likely (though not by much) because the vote would not be influenced by House Democrats who did pass the timetable.

I also don't see how the minimum wage bill was all that different.  If the timetable had been removed that would be the Senate saying, de facto, that the Bill will not be passed without a timetable.  It is comparable to an amendment adding the tax cut package to the minimum wage bill.  The Republicans filibustered the clean minimum wage bill and you can bet they would have filibustered this one too if the Dems tried to deny them a vote on the Cochran amendment.

Once again, I'm not arguing that a timetable would definitely not have been included even given the passage of the cochran amendment.  I'm saying now that a conference bill containing a timetable is now a 99.9%+ probability, and that it was significantly less before.

Whats more, a conference bill that overruled a passed Cochran amendment would give cover to cowardly Republicans to vote against the bill because..."the conference overruled the will of the majority of the Senate."

This was a victory for us, try to enjoy it a little more. ;)

by you like it 2007-03-27 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Hypothetically, if the timetable didn't pass

Sorry - the voting separately thing is really irrelevant. Shouldn't have mentioned it. Forget I ever did.

The point is that the Dem leaderships and (the vast majority of) the memberships of both houses are on the same page when it comes to the principle of a timetable for withdrawal.

We are guaranteed that some form of timetable will emerge in the conference text.

Gotta book right now - explaining the minimum wage thing needs a bit of time to think about, so I'll return to it tomorrow.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 05:11PM | 0 recs
Again with the minimum wage thing!

The question before the court was: assuming that the Cochran Amendment had passed, would the situation in the conference be analogous to that in which cloture on the minimum wage bill (sans sweeteners) was tried and failed?

I say no: because Cochran passing would not have been

the Senate saying, de facto, that the Bill will not be passed without a timetable.

(I think you mean with.)

Look at the position of the Dem leadership in each case: the cloture vote on the minimum wage bill showed it would not have passed the Senate without sweeteners.

Had they not then put in the sweeteners, the bill would have failed of passage in the Senate, and there would have been no conference on it in which the text could have been adjusted by the Dem conferees.

If Cochran had passed, the Iraq bill would certainly have passed the Senate - the GOP would not have filibustered a bill shorn of its (for want of a better word) teeth, and the Dems would have known that they could sort out the wording in conference.

It's true that

you can bet they would have filibustered this one too if the Dems tried to deny them a vote on the Cochran amendment.

And Reid could have done so by filing for cloture and filling the amendment tree.

But he was never going to do that - because it was much less trouble to allow the vote on Cochran. And because that's the way these things are done in the Senate, and Harry didn't want, on this occasion, to pick a fight with McConnell. (And vice versa.)

The tactics on both sides were dictated by the fact that everyone knew that the Dem leaderships could have any text they could agree on between themselves in the conference report.

And the GOP would have either to filibuster or to let it through.

The long-run direct marginal effect of the passage or non-passage of Cochran was therefore zero; pass or not, the final destination was the same: only the route would vary.

Short-term and indirect effects, there certainly are.

Harry kept his guys pretty much in line - and not for the first time on Iraq. So he and the party get a confidence boost and momentum. Not to be sniffed at.

Plus there are good talking points for the Dems to be spun out of the win - and good talking points denied to the GOP.

But the fundamentals in the game haven't changed.

And - I like a victory party like the next guy. But this is an occasion less for champagne than for root beer...

by skeptic06 2007-03-28 03:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?

Unfortunately Bush is a bull-headed moron, and he is going to veto. Yes. However, forcing him to veto is a politically good move for the Democrats and begins the process of getting out of Iraq, and showing that at least the congressional Dems acknowledge the will of the people. Looked at with only the goal of getting out of Iraq, any one vote that will be vetoed seems meaningless. Looked at politically and pragmatically, this is a huge win for the Dems, holding a majority together just like the win in the house. Assuming this voting bloc holds for the bill itself, the conference committee should be able to get a deadlined bill passed. When it's vetoed Bush will look like he is the one not funding the troops and even further out of step.

Especially with narrow majorities and lacking the executive, politics is an incremental process.

by jujube 2007-03-27 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?

Forcing a Bush veto that shows him prolonging an unpopular war is a political masterstroke.  My question is .. does Bush have to veto, or can he just issue a signing statement?

by Winston Smith 2007-03-27 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?

A signing statement in this case would almost certainly cause the constitutionality of signing statements to come under immense scrutiny - and I don't think they can hold up to that.

by dopplex 2007-03-27 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Undue pessimism turns to undue optimism?

The second thought in my post, erased, was to ask about legal options if a signing statement was signed.  I believe that the executive is abusing power and subverting the constitution by issuing signing statements, anyway.  What could the congress do?

by Winston Smith 2007-03-27 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Pryror did vote Aye. I know of no other Dem (unless you count Lieberman) who did.

This is BIG. From now until 2008, the Democrats can say "The Democratic Congress has called for a timeline to bring our troops home. The President and his allies refuse."

Huge.

by torridjoe 2007-03-27 02:02PM | 0 recs
This is one durable benefit

A nice clean vote will be useful - I agree.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

48 Dems + Sanders  said No.
46 GOP + Lieberman said Aye.

Hagel and Smith make 50 Nays, Pryor makes 48 Ayes, Johnson on med leave, and...who else is left out?

by torridjoe 2007-03-27 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Enzi R-Wy

by IsThisOverYet 2007-03-27 02:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

HOW FUCKING AWESOME!

by IsThisOverYet 2007-03-27 02:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Enzi, WY. Thanks for the roll call, Matt.

by torridjoe 2007-03-27 02:11PM | 0 recs
It's incremental, but it matters....

because now one party can say "we voted to withdraw the troops, just like the American public wants..." and the other party can say exactly what?  We tried to strike the deadline language and they wouldn't let us?  

It's an incremental step, but it's a step forward, and might just make a dent on the D.C. pundit class (hope springs eternal, as usual)--

And Lieberman most certainly no longer counts as a Democrat.  He's Joe (I-CT).

by CTvoter 2007-03-27 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Feingold says it's binding.  The AP calls it a "nonbinding timeline."

Feingold's right, isn't he?  What's the deal here?

by Steve M 2007-03-27 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!
There are differing opinions. I am not a legal expert, so I won't venture a guess.
by Chris Bowers 2007-03-27 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Well, its not nonbinding in the sense that the Warner-Levin resolution was nonbinding - a sense of Congress in the form of a concurrent resolution (which isn't legislation, because it's not signed by the prez).

But it is legislation.

Two things:

There's no provision saying that no funds can be used for activities breaching the timetable - there's no power of the purse sanction - not explicitly, at least.

And there's the question how could the timetable be enforced?

There are issues like standing, political question and the like, which are all figleaves for the courts to keep out of fights between Congress and the prez.

The endgame needs much more attention.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Where is the withdrawal language in the supplemental?  I can't even find it.

by Steve M 2007-03-27 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Go here, get the printer-friendly, and it's §1315. (That's the text of the Senate substitute (as reported by Byrd's committee) which has already been passed.)

It looks like basically S J Res 9, plus a list of sense of Congress benchmarks inserted for the benefit of  Nelson of NE.

by skeptic06 2007-03-27 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Thanks.

My reaction is that it is unenforceable in a legal sense, but enforceable in a political sense, which is to say that it's clear enough to be unsignable.

by Steve M 2007-03-27 05:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

This is an excellent first start.  Bush is being cornered into vetoing the Bill outright (including the funding provision) or having to accept a deadline.  The biggest disappointment is the removal of the references to a new war with Iran.
by ramfar 2007-03-27 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

 Great news.  Looks like Reid is good for something.  I'm pleased that he converted Smith and Hagel.  I didn't think Republicans would vote against their party when it really mattered.
  Lt. Gov of Arkansas Bill Halter has shown some interest in launching a primary campaign against Pryor: http://www.arktimes.com/blogs/arkansasbl og/2007/03/halter_to_challenge_pryor.asp x

   We should make Pryor pay for his stupid decision to vote with the Republicans

by cilerder86 2007-03-27 03:20PM | 0 recs
Nebraska won this vote

Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson were the two Senators who switched their votes since last week, providing the margin of victory.

by Dave Sund 2007-03-27 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Withdrawal Language Survives!

Gordon Smith was THE one Republican who knew he'd be gone if he voted NO.

Politically, this is huge.  Collins should even be truly vulnerable now.  Sick of the deference that she and that other rubbish Snowe gets.  

Whomever challenges Collins needs to show some sack and use this to beat her over the head.  She can be beaten.

by jgarcia 2007-03-27 05:07PM | 0 recs
The irony

 Getting the Democrat from Nebraska to vote for a withdrawal timetable is considered a bigger coup than getting the Republican to vote that way.

 I don't think one can come up with a better nutshell capsule of what's wrong with the Democratic  Party consultocracy.  

 Still, this was a great result tonight. More like this, please.

by Master Jack 2007-03-27 06:44PM | 0 recs

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