One of my favorite aliens, Kosh from the Babylon 5 TV series, once said as events seemed about to overwhelm the series' characters:
The avalanche has started. It's too late for the pebbles to vote.
He was speaking of events seemingly beyond the ability of the show's characters to affect. Of course, in the end they did stop that metaphorical avalanche, and changed their lives and the lives of their societies for the better.
I was going to name this post The Power of Protest, Part II, but somehow this title seems more apt. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, seems to have finally absorbed the lesson that the Republicans have been making a fool of him. There's really no other way to put it:
Harry Reid is finally coming to the realization reached months ago by the American people: That Democrats in Congress have been played for suckers by the Bush White House and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill.
The Senate majority leader's recognition of the realities of Washington in the Bush era -- as evidenced by his decision Monday to set up a scenario that could clarify the role played by Republican senators in maintaining the president's exceptionally unpopular approach to the Iraq War -- holds out the prospect that the politics of the debate over ending the occupation could change radically in the weeks to come.
Harry Reid Finally Starts to Fight Smart
It was beginning to look like nothing would change, that Reid would go on being outmaneuvered by the minority, with nothing being accomplished on the war in Iraq, restoring the Constitution, or any of the more mundane tasks that every Congress needs to attend to. Today, Reid seems to have had an epiphany.
He didn't get there on his own, though. He had a little help from us out here in Western Blogistan.
Last Friday, Mimikatz wrote an article at The Next Hurrah that noted how the Democrats were being blamed by Republicans for accomplishing almost nothing so far this legislative session, while it was they who were in fact obstructing the process:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is like those bad boys. Many people do not know that it is due to him that the Senate has accomplished virtually nothing, while the House has passed over 400 pieces of legislation. Even bills that have been passed by a majority of both houses cannot become law because Bad Boy McConnell will not allow a vote on sending them to a conference committee. We all know that McConnell would not allow a vote on the Webb-Hagel Amendemnt, leading Majority Leader Harry Reid to file a cloture motion that needed 60 votes. Since the Dems had only 56 votes, debate could not be closed off and there was no vote on the substance of Webb-Hagel. McConnell promises the same on Levin-Reed and Feingold-Reid.
The details are here.
Bad Boy, No Recess
Likening their behavior to that of petulant elementary school students, Mimikatz suggested that misbehavior in Congress should have consequences just as it does in elementary schools that value discipline. It was just a little thing, seemingly, noticed by one of the less frequent contributors to a relatively unknown blog. However, out here things like this don't stay unnoticed for long.
While I'd known about a few individual legislative actions by Republicans that had kept bills from being voted on, I hadn't been aware there was such a pattern. Apparently, I wasn't alone. In the succeeding days, Digby, Ian Welsh, Chris Bowers, Christy Hardin Smith, and Taylor Marsh, among others, wrote articles critical of Reid's performance regarding the non-filibusters that McConnell has been using to bottle up legislation.
This morning, Taylor mentioned an online petition asking Reid to make the Republicans filibuster. Within a couple of hours of my signing it, Reid announced that he would require the Republicans to actually filibuster if they were going to prevent cloture. Was it my signature that put us over the top? I'd love to think so, but I think it had more to do with the thousands of other people who signed on and called his office today.
It's difficult to see it sometimes, but words have meaning. Our words, together with those of other party activists, made this happen. Actions also have meaning, and our politicians sometimes respond to them. Without them, I suspect that this would have been just another day when the Republicans were allowed to obstruct a bill without even having to work hard. The people who made this happen, and I am not one of them, deserve a pat on the back.
Now I'm just hoping that now Reid's honked off enough to do what needs to be done. But if he doesn't, he'll be hearing from us again. After all, I'm just dying to use this picture of him one more time.
Note 1: Babylon 5 copyright Warner Studios, who are in no way responsible for the content of this article.
UPDATE: Apparently, this is only the start of this struggle to get Reid to do the right thing. Here's a quote from Mimikatz's follow on article this evening:
So it will be a real filibuster, apparently, in the sense that "debate on the amendment continues" --until it doesn't. The "30 hours" only comes into play if the cloture motion passes. So Reid will need to be pressured to keep debate on the (minimally acceptable) Levin-Reed amendment until there is an up-or-down vote on the amendment. This, today, is just theatrics.
Filibuster Update: At Least It's A Start
We need to keep the pressure on. If you haven't signed the petition, please do so, and contact Reid's office (phone numbers are at the bottom of the page if you're so inclined) in the days ahead to encourage him to continue making the Republicans either earn their filibusters or allow bills to be voted on.