Friday, May 27, 2005
Harry Reid is one hell of a poker player. He's been drawing to a nothing hand while Bill Frist's holding a full boat, and yet the Democrats walked away with a big-ass pile o' political chips yesterday when they managed to keep the Bolton confirmation from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
In the NY Times, the Republicans are claiming that Reid faked Frist out, told him that there were in fact enough Democratic votes for cloture (closing the debate and sending the nomination for an up-or-down vote) which is why Frist called for it. To which, if true, I give my best Nelson Muntz "Ha-ha." Frist now looks like a fool and wound up having to vote himself against cloture since only someone who voted with the prevailing side can move to reconsider.
The final vote tally was a comfortable 56-42 (the Republicans needed 60), with Harry Reid able to let Pryor, Landrieu and Ben Nelson off-leash to vote against cloture for cover in their conservative home states. Even Joementum toed the line, apparently feeling the need to prove he is actually a Democrat after state town chairs let him know over the weekend that his party support was thinner than Joe Biden's hair.
Frist is screaming that this is a violation of the deal made whereby the Democrats would not filibuster, but that deal was only for judicial nominees, try though Frist might to cross-pollinate it. And technically it's not a filibuster at all, because the Democrats are not blocking the nomination from coming up for a vote (where the nomination would only need a simple majority to pass), they are merely waiting on documents about Bolton that the white house has so far refused to provide regarding a battle he waged in 2003 over intelligence assessments on Syria.
The Senate will now be in recess and the vote is put off until June 7, during which time the white house has, as far as I can see, four options:
1) Do nothing and let Frist move to reconsider the vote for cloture. Even Joementum told Ed Schultz this afternoon that he would stand with the Democrats until the white house complied with the request for documents. I don't see it happening. Specter and Inouye were the only two that weren't present to cast votes; even if they came back and voted with the majority, as did Frist, they'd still be one vote shy. (In case anyone is keeping score, George Don't Cry For Me Argentina Voinovich cast his vote for cloture.)
2) Give up the documents. Even if there is absolutely nothing damning in them, Bush is WAY TO ARROGANT to bend to the will of the Democrats like that. It would be a HUGE sign that the Good Ship Wingnut is bursting at the gunwales. More likely they will try to offer up some heavily redacted version of the requested documents then cry that the Democrats are being obstructionists.
3) Give Bolton a recess appointment. It is possible, over the 10 day recess, that Bush could make an appointment under Article II, section 2, clause 3 of the Constitution which says "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." Such an appointment would last until the end of the second session (in 2007), at which time Bolton would have to receive formal confirmation of the Senate to remain in office.
Is Bush arrogant enough to "back door" Bolton? Yes. But I can't imagine it happening. It would give the Democrats all the cover they need to shut down the Senate, something it appears that big business is very much against. According to Think Progress, one of the reasons the compromise was made this week is because there are a number of business friendly bills coming up and the big money doesn't want them delayed by Senate squabbling. And when the interests of the religious right (in getting their judges) rub up against those of big business (in getting their CA$H), you know who's going to win.
4) Bush could withdraw the nomination completely. Right. On that day when pigs will most assuredly fly.
You can count on the fact that there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth going on in the white house this holiday weekend as Bush finds himself backed into an extremely uncomfortable corner fashioned and fitted for him by Harry Reid and company. In the end Bolton may well be confirmed as many are predicting, but I'm not altogether certain. And in the meantime it's nice to see the Democrats throw the cat killer a good Memorial Day beating.
I for one will be stocking up on popcorn.
To which you say....?