It Has Come to This
by Charles Lemos, Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 07:09:17 AM EST
Thirty three Republican Senators decided just past midnight on Friday to play politics instead of voting for cloture on the annual Pentagon budget, a measure that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and provides for the welfare of men and women in uniform who are serving their country. They chose this path not because they took issue with the defense bill, though Senator McCain of Arizona complained the bill was pork-laden, but because as Senator Brownback of Kansas put it "I don't want health care." Had we pulled a stunt like that, we would this morning have been accused of the most villainous and vile treason. I won't stoop to such rhetoric but I will call them petty. It was a shameful ploy. I will note that three Republicans did vote for cloture: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Senator Robert Byrd Getting Wheeled In to Vote
The story in the Washington Post:
On a 63 to 33 vote, Democrats cleared a key hurdle that should allow them to approve the must-pass military spending bill Saturday and return to the health-care debate. After years of criticizing Democrats for not supporting the troops, just three Republicans supported the military funding.
The maneuvering came as Democrats were still trying to secure a crucial vote on the health-care legislation. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the last holdout in the Democratic caucus and the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by White House officials, rejected an abortion compromise aimed at bringing him on board. Nelson has said he would not support the package unless it explicitly bars use of federal money for abortion services.
If Nelson's support can be locked up by Saturday, Democrats are hopeful that they will be able to begin clearing the parliamentary hurdles that would allow final passage of their version of the legislation by Christmas Eve. That would meet their self-imposed deadline to begin negotiating with House Democrats to craft a final version of the bill to send to the president early next year.
Republicans have said their goal is to delay the bill and force Senate Democrats to go home and face their constituents, hoping for some supporters of the measure to return after New Year's too fearful to back the legislation.
If the filibuster on the $626 billion defense bill had succeeded, Democrats would have had to scramble to find a way to fund the military operations, because a stopgap funding measure for the Pentagon will expire at midnight Friday. Such an effort to come up with another stopgap defense bill might have disrupted the very tight timeline on health care.
Unsure of any GOP votes, the Democrats were required to deliver all 60 members of the caucus to forestall the GOP's delaying tactics. Even Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a vocal opponent of the war, voted for cloture and Senator Byrd was wheeled in for the vote.