Democrats May Force All-Night Filibuster on Iraq Withdrawal

Steve Benen: If that's the case, allow me to give the Democratic leadership some positive encouragement: this is a good idea.
This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

When a senator threatens a filibuster on a bill, the Senate holds a cloture vote to end debate. If the measure gets 60 votes, the full chamber votes on the legislation. If the cloture vote fails, which is far more common in an evenly divided Senate, the bill is pulled from the floor. No one actually has to talk the bill to death.

But when it comes to the latest fight over Iraq funding, Senate Dems are apparently considering a plan to force Republicans to follow through and literally filibuster.
Senate Democrats might force Republicans to wage a filibuster if the GOP wants to block the latest Iraq withdrawal bill, aides and senators said Tuesday.
That could set the stage for a dramatic end-of-the-year partisan showdown, which Democrats hope will help them turn voter frustration with Congress and the stalemate over Iraq into anger with the Republican Party.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), the number two Democrat in the chamber, said a forced filibuster is "possible" and would "generate attention."
"We want to go to the bill, and [Republicans] have to decide initially whether they want us to go to the bill," Durbin said. "I wouldn't call it theatrics."
Well, I might call it a little theatrical, but that's not necessarily a criticism.

Depending on which polls you read, about two-thirds of the country wants to see Congress step and fight the Bush White House over ending the war in Iraq. Dems have tried to push various measures, even some with a few Republican allies, but when push comes to shove, they come up far short of the 60-vote requirement the GOP has established for meaningful legislation.

The typical American doesn't know about filibusters or cloture votes; all they know is that a Democratic Senate keeps failing to force Bush's hand and change the existing policy. It's one of the reasons Congress' approval rating is as low as it is.

Forcing a real, live filibuster, with Republicans front and center, refusing to allow a vote on a withdrawal measure, would as Durbin put it, "generate attention." Or, more specifically, highlight exactly who's responsible for the lack of progress.

Now, it's worth noting that some of this sounds a bit like a trial balloon. Harry Reid's office wouldn't comment, and all the filibuster talk seems rather speculative.

If that's the case, allow me to give the Democratic leadership some positive encouragement: this is a good idea.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.
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