The Senate may take its first vote on the Warner/Levin anti-“surge” resolution as early as later today. Republican leaders in the Senate are trying to block a vote on the Warner resolution through a filibuster, unless the Democrats also permit votes on two competing resolutions. Dianne Feinstein says that blocking a vote on Warner/Levin would be a “terrible mistake:”

“It’s obstructionism,” said Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “This is not tolerable in a situation where it’s the number one topic in the nation, and the Republican party prevents the Senate of the United States from debating.”

That’s a lot of obfuscation crammed into a couple of sentences. The purpose of a filibuster is not to “prevent the Senate from debating,” but rather to prevent the Senate from voting. The Dems can debate to their hearts’ content. And with respect to voting, the Republicans aren’t necessarily averse to voting on Warner/Levin, they just want the other resolutions to come before the Senate as well. It’s hard to see what’s “obstructionist” about that.
And Feinstein tries to differentate the Republicans’ “obstructionism” from the Democrats’ use of the filibuster when Republicans controlled the Senate, e.g. to block judicial nominations. Feinstein says the filibuster is improper here because Iraq is the “number one topic in the nation.” That may be true, but the nonbinding resolutions at issue aren’t the number one topic; on the contrary, unlike judicial nominations, they have no practical impact at all.
UPDATE: The cloture vote on the Levin/Warner resolution is scheduled for 5:30 eastern time. Republican leadership reportedly expects its caucus to hold firm on insisting that amendments and/or competing resolutions be permitted. Ongoing negotiations could lead to a procedural resolution either before or after the scheduled vote.
MORE: The Democrats’ motion failed 49-47, 11 votes short of the 60 they needed. I haven’t seen a roll call, but it looks like there were few if any Republican defections. I assume this means the Republicans will be able to force the Democrats to allow alternatives to the Warner/Levin resolution to be debated and voted on.
It’s a key point about the Senate: the body’s rules empower the minority. Thus, while Bill Frist was often blamed by partisans for being unable to get enough done with the Republicans’ majority, Mitch McConnell will look like a tactical genius now that the party is in the minority. Conversely, Harry Reid’s tactical skills will diminish now that his party commands a majority.
Via Power Line News.
FINAL UPDATE: The roll call is here. I’m sorry to see that Senators Coleman and Collins voted for cloture. Harry Reid voted against, but I believe that is a procedural maneuver that allows him to re-introduce the motion on the ground that he has changed his vote. Or something like that.
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