Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senate Confirms Role in Ongoing "Broken Branch" of US Government

The US Senate today confirmed its role in the Broken Branch of government by failing to pass a procedural step required to move on to floor debate of a no-confidence motion in President Bush's 5-year prosecution of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Senator Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, is emerging as a chief spoiler for the GOP, offering amendments here and there that are designed to torpedo bills (cf. the line-item veto amendment that he recently offered). His amendment or alternative bill would have requested a vote that the Congress never pull funding from U.S. troops involved in the conflict.

The Congress ought not ever cede its authority to end a war in this way. Against the backdrop that the GOP dominated Congress has consistently ceded too much authority and trust to the Bush Administration over the course of the Iraqi deployment, following VP Cheney's "last throws" ad hoc assessments among others, a call for the Congress to once again vote away its authority to pull funding from any mission.


Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) didn't even show up for the vote. This is emblematic of how debate really occurs in the US today.

Frankly, the Senate floor is too exposed politically. It's easier to regurgitate pre-hashed comments on Sunday morning shows, calling on "my fellow colleagues", rather than actually call on them in person on the Senate floor. It's easier to stick to your talking points, than to answer questions from across the isle. It's easier to read a statement than it is to make extemporaneous remarks that are worthy of consideration.

So broken is the tradition of debate, that Senator McCain was comfortable staying away from the floor on a question of such importance to the Nation, choosing instead to campaign from the relative safety of the podium, the carefully composed photo-op, and make pronouncements to talk-show hosts about what his position is.


A down-vote on a no-confidence measure is a vote that confidence is justified or warranted. To defeat a no-confidence measure on a procedural motion, to shy away from a real vote, is hardly the way to show confidence in the President or in his Generals.

The fact that, even at this late date in the conflict, that elected officials are unwilling to let their precious careers be defined by the defining issue of the times is telling of just how much self-saving compliance and pushover rubber-stamping is still available from the days when the Senate was fully in GOP hands.

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