There were three resolutions in play today. The Warner-Levin anti-surge resolution. The McCain-Graham-Lieberman pro-surge resolution. Then there was a third resolution offered by Sen. Judd Gregg. The key is the Gregg resolution. All the Gregg resolution really said was that it's the Commander-in-Chief's duty to assign military missions and the Congress's duty to fund them. (Constitutionally, it's a ridiculous claim. But let's set that aside for the moment.)This is not exactly comforting, nor is Joe Lieberman exactly the issue. The CW in D.C. is that the only resolution yesterday which would have met the 60+ vote test, is the grossly unconstitutional (in the sense that it isn't what the Constitution says) one that the President decides, and the Congress pays for that decision, and that that's the way it should be?
Now, here's the rub. The Democrats wanted them all to go to a simple majority vote. The Republicans wanted each to go to a 60+ filibuster-breaking vote.
How do the two thresholds shape the debate?
If each goes to a simple majority vote, the anti-surge resolution wins, the pro-surge resolution loses and the Gregg amendment probably wins too. But the headline is the repudiation of the president. The Gregg amendment is an afterthought.
However, if each resolution goes to a 60 vote test, the thinking was that both surge resolutions (pro and con) would fail. And only the Gregg amendment would win.
So opposition to the president would lose and the only winning amendment would be one that gets the senate on the record saying that Congress is obligated to fund whatever missions the president chooses.
That's what happened.
The vote yesterday was on party lines, and 47 Republicans (which is all of them, I'd understood) voted to defeat the motion that was part of the "parliamentary procedure." We know how Lieberman would vote. So 12 more Democrats, at least, would sign on to that resolution?
Tell me again what we won in November. Suddenly I'm very confused.
UPDATE: Well, here is a bit more clarity; and a correction on my memory of the vote count yesterday:
The procedural vote, which divided mostly along party lines, left the Democratic leadership 11 votes short of the 60 needed to begin debate on the bipartisan resolution. Forty-seven Democrats and two Republicans voted to open debate on the resolution; 45 Republicans and one independent were opposed.And the reason the Gregg amendment would have passed with 60+ votes? Fear of not supporting the troops, of course. Although there is this:
Some Republicans admitted that they were unsure how long the unity would last and whether Republicans could continue to make a case against the resolution on procedural grounds. And two Republicans facing re-election in 2008, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, joined Democrats in voting to begin the debate.Much that might be clearer is lost in the fog of procedure here. However, one thing does seem to be plain: the "lesson" of Vietnam rolls on. Which means many more will die before anything happens. And even then, the whole mess will probably be punted off until after the next Presidential election.
And then what?