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Of Mice and Men

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Message Bob Kincaid

I remember it, do you?

It happened time and again over the course of the Republican control of the Senate between January 2005 and January 2007.  Bill Frist or Jeffrey Beuregard Sessions, III or some other mush-mouthed, cornpone phony from the deep south would take the microphone to plaintively moan "Awl we wawnt izzuh up uh daywn vote!" 

The next day, right-wing hate radio would be bursting at the seams with cries from Republican yammerheads to the effect that "obstruptionist Demoncrats want to impose an artificial, unconstitutional super-majority vote on (fill in Republican cause or nominee)."

After that, Republican Majority Leader Bill "Cat-killer" Frist would take the rostrum to explain to Democrats that if they so much as dared to breathe the word filibuster, that he, Frist, would employ what came to be known as the "nuclear option" and abolish the minority party's right to filibuster altogether.

After that, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, ashen-faced and looking like he'd just awakened with a horse's head in his bed, would appear and tell the world that the Senate Democrats would once again let themselves be used like an old dish rag in a cathouse.  There would be platitudes about "reaching consensus" and blather about "bi-partisanship" and something about "keeping our powder dry for the really important fights."

Of course, for Harry Reid, the important fights never came.  Instead, we saw the bankruptcy bill sail through the Senate.  We saw "class action reform" glide through as if on silvered rails.  We saw John Roberts and Sammy Alito get an absolute grease-job to get them into office.  We watched as democrats voted to overturn 700 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence to gut habeas corpus.  We saw them cave to a razor thin Republican majority over illegal wiretapping and torture.  And every time, there would be Harry, telling us about his dry powder, but never bothering to mention his sopping wet underwear.  

Thus it was that, with some faint glimmer of hope, many of us progressives watched Harry Reid take the mantle of Majority Leader from the Cat-killer in January 2007.  "Now," we said to ourselves, "now he'll show 'em!  Now he'll be a force for good.  Now he'll stand up to these thugs and bullies."

We were, of course, apparently honking on our collective crack pipes, for Harry Reid had no such intention.  No, Harry was going to be about "restoring civility" and "reaching across the aisle."  Never mind that the other side was waiting with a platoon of chainsaws for him to reach across the aisle so they could send him back with a bloody stump.  Never mind that "civility" is something that Democrats do, and at which Republicans snicker up their French cuffs.  Never mind that the Republicans had already made complete plans to turn Harry's weakness into a greater weakness, like some sort of existential political jujitsu.

What's more, if worst came to worst, and they absolutely had to, the Republican minority was secretly prepared to make Harry Reid's worst nightmare come true: they were prepared to call him names.  They were even prepared to call him a . . . liberal.

And so it was that we watched the purely ceremonial vote on the Iraq War and the purely ceremonial vote of "No Confidence" on Alberto "It's-not-torture-if-we-do-it" Gonzales stopped in their tracks by a Republican filibuster.  More particularly,  we saw it stopped by what's called a cloture vote.  Now these things were most often refered to as "filibusters" when there was a threat of the Democrats doing it.  Now, they're "cloture votes."  We mustn't, after all, allow the hoi polloi electorate to get it into its pointy little head that the Republicans were using their minority power to stifle legislative progress.  Heaven forfend!

And not once during any of these motions to continue debate (a filibuster), not ONCE has our Dear Harry ever threatened to take away the Republicans' right to do so.

So now, we reach the present.  It's the twenty-sixth of June, 2007, and there were two "cloture" votes in the Senate today.  On one, the immigration bill, Democrats and Republicans joined hand in hand, like a political Jack and Jill, and ended debate.  George Bush, I'm told, hadn't been so happy since finding a bucket of frogs and a box of M-80s under the tree on Christmas morning. 

It is on the other matter that the gutlessness and perfidy really begins to stink up the room.  I'm speaking, of course, about the Employee Free Choice Act.  In essence, this was a bill to allow folks to join a union by checking a box on a card, as opposed to the tortured, NLRB-mandated process that currently exists in which workers vote for a union only to have a cabal of NLRB and company thugs drag their heels and negotiate in bad faith for so long that the NLRB can finally step back in and declare the "secret ballot" election a nullity, leaving the workers back at square one, fending for themselves after a year and more of company intimidations, captive "seminars" and selective, exemplary firings.

The fight against Employee Free Choice was led by the usual suspects: Trent Lott, whose idea of a labor law is repealing the Thirteenth Amendment and Mitch McConnell, whose idea of a good time is to go home to his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and compare notes to see which of them screwed more workers in a given day.   This biumvirate knew from the get-go that the EFCA was dead on arrival in the Senate.  They knew that because they knew they'd filibuster it and kill it, and that's what they did today.

That was the other cloture vote.  The final tally was 51 Yeas to 48 nays.  The Yays, almost exclusively Democrats, save for Arlen Spector, needed one of those things the Republican yammerheads used to call a "Supermajority" to get over the hump.  They didn't get it.

And here's my beef: Majority Leader Harry Reid knew (or if he didn't, should have known) that the Republicans would do this.  And he did nothing to make them think twice about it.  Nothing.  Nada.  Where Bill Frist, at the first whisper of a filibuster, would've made Harry's bowels turn to water with a threat of the "nuclear option," Harry was civil.  Where thugs like that mush-mouth Jeff Sessions would've drawled out from the mountaintop about how he just wanted "an up or down vote," the Democrats sat more or less silently.

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Bob Kincaid is a founder and host on the Head-On Radio Network ("The H.O.R.N.), America's Liberal Voice. "Head-On With Bob Kincaid" can be heard every weeknight from 6 to 9 p.m., Eastern at Archives are available at (more...)
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