The Iraq filibuster and the press

Josh is right; the Republican filibuster of the Warner anti-escalation resolution is a vote for the President’s war policy. The question is whether the press will cover it that way.

Filibusters are, of course, procedural votes. But here, in the context of a non-binding resolution, a vote against debate is a vote for the President. There is literally no difference. Beating a filibuster for binding legislation means not only a position being taken but a law being enacted. Here, that doesn’t happen even if the resolution passes. If the Senate votes again to bring up debate (or to close debate and vote), and the Democrats get, say, 55 votes, then that is the exact same thing as a Senate rebuke of the President.

Democrats need to say this over and over. Will the press understand that? I’m doubtful. Already, the Associated Press story discussing the filibuster notes that:

Democrats hoped to gain enough Republican votes to pass the measure expressing disagreement with Bush’s decision, and to send the commander in chief an extraordinary wartime rebuke on a bipartisan vote.

They have already done that. Democrats need to start working the refs now.

UPDATE: The New York Times also misses the point. It reports:

Republicans on Monday blocked Senate debate on a bipartisan resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, leaving in doubt whether the Senate would render a judgment on what lawmakers of both parties described as the paramount issue of the day.

This really isn’t very hard: the Senate has already rendered judgment: a majority rejects the President’s policy by wanting to debate the resolution. The article makes the point itself, noting that “Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democratic co-author of the resolution who typically promotes comity in the Senate, accused Republicans of stalling. “If not now, when?” he said. “If not now, do we wait for more troops to die before we oppose the president’s plan?” If Ben Nelson has this view, you can rest assured that everyone else voting for it does, too. Evewryone understands this–except the press.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.