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August 07, 2007


This would seem a very smart way to take a stand on the filibuster:

Senator Jim Webb has introduced an amendment that requires the military to give troops as much time at home as they spent on their previous deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Because the armed forces have been stretched thin by the wars, Webb's amendment would make it impossible for the Pentagon to retain current troop levels in Iraq for very long. It drew 57 supporters in July but was, surprise surprise, defeated by filibuster.[...

Harry Reid should bring the amendment up for consideration in September, and he should make clear that he's not going to table it. If he demands that the bill get an up-or-down vote and sticks to his guns, Reid will almost surely emerge victorious.

Why? First off, the Webb amendment is exceptionally popular. Republicans can't seriously oppose more rest and recuperation time for soldiers and marines. They'll say that Congress shouldn't micro-manage the war, but with many troops on their third tour in Iraq, that argument doesn't carry much weight. Second, because the vote was so close last time, at the outset of this debate the outcome would be in sincere doubt. Add to that the fact that such Very Serious Republicans as John Warner and Dick Lugar have long billed September as the moment of truth regarding Bush's surge, they may finally (with some pushing) feel the need to vote against the president, and the Webb amendment offers the perfect "non-defeat" bill on which to do it. All of this adds real uncertainty -- which constitutes exactly the drama that the press loves. If Reid can keep the floor debate going for 3 or 4 days, the excitement will only build -- if the Senate is deadlocked over the fate of thousands of U.S. soldiers, America will tune in.

Add in that James Webb is exactly the anti-war voice that Democrats should be uniting behind, and this strikes me as a pretty strong case. Indeed, I'm almost more interested in the question of why Reid won't do it.

August 7, 2007 | Permalink


But General Petraeus is going to report "progress", isn't he? What effect is that likely to have on the likes of Warner and Lugar?

Posted by: JackD | Aug 7, 2007 4:30:24 PM

And Reid won't do a thing with the Webb amendment for the same reason Reid let the FISA bill slide through. What that reason is, I can only speculate. But it's clear that Reid (and Pelosi and the blue dogs...) is buying into yet more of this administration's horseshit. The democratic leadership in both houses have repeatedly proven they're mostly the craven losers that the republicans claim they are.

Maybe they're slightly better than the rethugs, I don't know. But right now, they all the same.

Posted by: ice weasel | Aug 7, 2007 4:40:12 PM

As a disappointed supporter of Webb (who likes his current troop respite approach), let me point out that Webb voted for this execrable FISA bill.

Webb may actually have realized he did wrong on FISA - he fairly quickly released a statement saying he wants to readdress it in October, long before the six month sunset kicks in - but I can't be too optimistic. And I don't have high hopes for the prospects of a truly good FISA bill to replace the new one.

Posted by: Warren Terra | Aug 7, 2007 5:01:30 PM

I thought the all night senate debate on setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq was a good start, but it wasn't a classic filibuster, was it. Reid should take a series of extremely popular acts and bring them up for vote and force the Republicans to actually "talk" the senate to a standstill and let the public see exactly who and what is obstructing legislation a sizable majority of the American people find beneficial and needful.

Posted by: Primigenius | Aug 7, 2007 8:13:21 PM

I don't understand the point of initiatives like Webb's. All they mean is a smaller war sustainable for the indefinite future. Say it passes and the Bush administration grudgingly has to bring forces down to a level compatible with Webb's bill, like 120,000. It can stay at that level for a long time. What will the Democrats have gained? More to point, how will this help *end* the US military involvement in Iraq?

Posted by: santamonicamr | Aug 7, 2007 8:15:30 PM

I see two points:

(1) The less-important point, on a global/policy scale, is the simple one: let our boys and girls spend at least as much time with their families as they spend dodging mortar shells. I realize your comment is about whether Webb's amendment helps achieve withdrawal, but it is worth pointing out that it is a thoroughly just proposal even if it doesn't move anyone towards any greater goals. On a more cold-blooded note, if we want to have a serviceable military the soldiers need a lot more rest and retraining. Our state of military readiness right now is shocking.

(2) The broader point: It's a start, both in terms of having fewer troops in theater and in terms of demonstrating to America that we can't maintain our current policy without abusing our soldiers or drafting new ones. Yes, this amendment, alone, would still permit those inclined to do so to hold many tens of thousands of troops in Iraq forever. But not any number close to 160,000, and that change isn't nothing. Also, with a solid limit on the number, this amendment would make some grand schemes impossible, and this could force some people to realize what the real options are.

(3) The special bonus point: The Republicans always say they're the only ones who love the troops, but they're always proposing benefit cuts, stagnant pay, and longer deployments. This amendment raises a vivid issue and is easily understood, and could help to convince Red America that the Dems are on the troops' side.

Posted by: Warren Terra | Aug 7, 2007 8:27:43 PM

If passes it will be vetoed. If you want more theater, this will give it to you.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 7, 2007 8:46:52 PM

I'm almost more interested in the question of why Reid won't do it.

Because they don't want the win, they want the issue.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Aug 8, 2007 3:43:17 AM

I'm almost more interested in the question of why Reid won't do it.

Bought and paid for is why. The same oil and military interests that fund Bush, fund Reid.

Posted by: moron | Aug 8, 2007 6:38:52 AM

Ice Weasel is right. I'm not longer interested in pretending the Democratic party is any better than the Republican party. They aren't.

If you continue to support them, you're just a useful idiot for the american elite. the Democrats control congress, and NEVER HAD TO ALLOW A VOTE. if they did, it's because they wanted this bill to pass regardless of what the vote totals were in the end. They didn't get rolled, they are just every bit as corrupt and undemocratic as the Republican party.

Posted by: soullite | Aug 8, 2007 8:23:41 AM

Ahem. This bill will not become law no matter what Reid does. Many of the comments here ignore that.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 8, 2007 12:16:48 PM

If passes it will be vetoed. If you want more theater, this will give it to you.
Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 7, 2007 8:46:52 PM

But who do we blame for that? The theater is Bush. He chooses to be cooky and intransigent. Something the bipartizan chorus fails to recognize because they can't deal with who president Bush is and what his party has become. It ruins their peace of mind and untroubled world view.
Let the dems bring bills to the floor. If they are good, say they are good. If they are bad, say they are bad. If President coco bananas wants to veto it and up the 'drama' well that has nothing to do with the character of Congress. The veto is on his head.

Posted by: Northern Observer | Aug 8, 2007 12:53:53 PM

As I said, NO, that's theater, not substance. Reid can force a vote for political reasons, but it won't help the soldiers. It may be that he has better things to do.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 8, 2007 2:21:31 PM

Its because of people like Sanpete that the Congress has such a low approval rating. The American People don't think the congress is doing anything precisely because they can't see them doing anything. Bringing this vote to the floor and passing it is exactly the right thing to do. If the President doesn't veto it, then all the better. If he does, then the American people will once again see this President for what he is and also see his cronies in Congress for what they are. And next election cycle, more Democrats will be voted into office, enough to override a veto if by that slight chance in hell a Republican actually wins the nomination.

OK, Sanpete, I expect your ridiculous response to this, but more importantly, I look forward to your alternative suggestion.

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 8, 2007 2:30:51 PM

Sounds like a great idea, so that means the gutless democratic worms won't do it.

They will roll over and play dead, as usual.

Posted by: Tony | Aug 8, 2007 6:05:12 PM

Adrock, I think the replacement of actions that matter with theater is the reason Congress is held in such low esteem. There have been votes on Iraq, but none that have done anything to help the soldiers there, apart from funding them. And this idea would be more of the same. But if your goal is to try to lift the opinion of Congress and you think this will work, try it again and see. It still won't help the soldiers.

My suggestion is too radical to even discuss. I think Congress should stop all the unrealistic crap thinking and evasions about Iraq and try to deal in reality. I think Congress needs to recognize the likely results of their withdrawal plans and not mislead Americans about how a withdrawal would improve things in Iraq. If they do that, maybe they'll be able to do something useful, or at lest stop doing what's counterproductive. So far all they've done is communicate to the soldiers that they're giving up life and limb for nothing, but that they'll leave them there anyway.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 8, 2007 6:45:38 PM

why exactly should we get behind webb?

oh, because he wants troops to rest.

how about coming home period?

when webb actually starts leading, maybe i'll follow.

for now, the democrats are worthless.

Posted by: christian | Aug 9, 2007 1:58:43 PM

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