Before I get started on today’s post, I shall take a moment to note just how right I was about the “how do we beat the bitch” bit: here’s the New York Times (seriously, the “bastion of old liberalism” the right is always railing about) on how the incident not only won’t hurt McCain, it’ll hurt Clinton. Sometimes knowing how the process really works can suck.
Anyway, I think enough time has now passed that I can begin to talk rationally about the pathetic collapse of the Democrats on the Mukasey nomination last week. Whether I will remain rational as I type is up for debate, but let’s give it a shot anyway.
So to begin, what the hell happened? The Senate theoretically has a 60-vote threshold in order to do anything, yes? After all, every time a war funding bill comes to the upper chamber, every Democrat in sight will begin to gnash their teeth and rend their garments over the awful burden of needing 60 votes to overcome Republican filibuster threats. Yet there were, if I recall, 40 votes actually cast against Mukasey, not to mention that Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama had all declared their opposition to his nomination, and could easily have gotten back to Washington in time for a vote if given word that it was imminent. That, by my count, is 44. Now, I’m a history/poli-sci major, so math’s not my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that 44 is more than the 40 votes which are required to sustain a filibuster well into 2009.
So if the Senate Democratic leadership really opposed the nomination, and had a tool at their disposal which would have prevented the nomination from succeeding, then why didn’t they use it? Glenn Greenwald’s got one theory, which I’m inclined to buy, but I’m also really blown away by the story I found on TPM about another possible explanation: that Reid struck a deal in which he would hold the vote and pledge not to stage a filibuster, in exchange for which several Senate Republicans would support a move to split the latest defense appropriations bill into one general funding bill (for troop pay, weapons development, base maintenance, etc) and one bill specifically doling out funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The theory here was basically “we keep getting rolled on Iraq because the President accuses us of threatening national defense by cutting the DoD’s budget. So if we separate that from war funding, he can’t use that weapon anymore.” So they’d take the hit of an executive-worshipping, torture-sanctioning Attorney General in order to bring a swifter conclusion to the war. Decent deal, right?
Well, let’s fast-forward to this week, when it actually happened. The Senate passed an appropriations bill, with no funding for the war attached. The House swiftly followed with a bill which would grant enough funds for the next several months, provided that the President started a withdrawal, with a goal of complete withdrawal by the end of 2008. And so it went to the Senate, where… well, what do you think happened?
Ah well, at least they’ve managed to defuse that whole “you’re risking America’s defense and not supporting the troops” thing, right? In fact, here’s Tony Fratto, White House spokesman, who I’m sure will have nothing but respect for the Democrats’ principled stand:
So the war keeps going, the Republicans continue to use their “support the troops” mantra, and Mukasey is Attorney General. To quote Casey Stengel as he addressed the 1962 Mets: “Can’t anyone here play this game?”