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Who Will Lead a Filibuster of the Iraq War Spending Bill?

The Latest Betrayal by Senate Democrats

by JOHN V. WALSH

The allegedly "antiwar" Senate Democrats betrayed the antiwar movement again last week, and the coming weeks will make Judas seem a model of loyalty by comparison. Prowar Senators used the filibuster provision repeatedly this past week to win the day, and the allegedly antiwar Senators did – nothing . Friday, the Senate failed to get the votes necessary to stop a filibuster and vote on an amendment ordering most U.S. troops home from Iraq in the next nine months. The vote was 47-47, well short of the 60 required to bring debate to an end. On Thursday, the Senate blocked legislation by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that would have cut off funding, albeit only for "combat" forces in June 2008. Now comes the news that Bush’s spending supplemental for the war to be submitted to the Senate this week will amount to nearly $200 billion dollars ($195 billion to be precise, the price tag put on more or less the way done for a used car). Essentially Bush is thumbing his nose at the antiwar sentiment in the country, and the Dems are going along while trying to preserve a rapidly eroding antiwar veneer.

To get their way prowar Senators are on their way to using the filibuster provision a record number of times in this the 110th Congress where cloture has already been invoked 56 times at which rate there will be 143 such votes in this session! But the question must be raised, Why do the so-called "antiwar" Senators like Feingold or Obama or Kennedy or Kerry or Clinton or even Hagel not initiate a filibuster to stop Bush’s supplemental funding requests for the war? Think about it for a moment. Yes it takes 60 votes to continue debate but by the same token it only takes 41 to terminate a debate–and then the bill is dead. So why not filibuster Bush’s forthcoming spending supplemental? Unless Bush can muster 60 Senate votes, his request is dead in the water. The bill is then a corpse and there is nothing to veto. Now the 47 Senators who voted Friday to bring the U.S. troops home from Iraq are more than enough to filibuster Bush’s spending requests and end the war. Why do they not do it? Could it be that to a man and woman they are really prowar but this tactic allows them to appear antiwar to their constituents? Are they proclaiming their prowar bona fides to the voters while demonstrating to their real masters in the military industrial complex and at AIPAC that they will do nothing to stop the war? That is the way it looks from here.

Second why is the media perfectly silent on this possibility. I defy anyone to find a single mention of the use of the filibuster to end the war now anywhere in the mainstream media. A good example is last Sunday’s NYT piece by Frank Rich. He points out that the Dems are not doing enough to end the war, but then he laments that they really do not have the power. He perpetuates the myth that they have only a razor thin majority, a thought often put out by Harry Reid, and so they can do nothing. But Mr. Rich is surely smart enough to recognize that a filibuster can defund the war at once–and there are plenty of votes to do so among the 51 Dems.

Third and probably most important, why does the antiwar movement not take up the filibuster as a demand. It would bring enormous pressure to bear on Senatorial Dems who like to proclaim themselves antiwar. UFPJ (United for Peace and Justice) has explicitly refused to do this. Why? Because, according to the UFPJ "leadership," their friends on the Hill (read Dems) say it does not have a chance? Of course that could be said of any of the antiwar measures. No, the truth is that the filibuster and the vote that would follow in its wake would expose each and every Dem Senator for what they are. And that is a no-no for the UFPJ leadership which more or less shares a bed with the Dems.

There is one way to push this forward. At FilibusterForPeace.org there is a petition calling for a Senate filibuster against the war. Sign and circulate. And if you are a member of UFPJ or other peace group, get them to support this in an active way. There will be mighty resistance but it is still possible.

JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com.