Both the House and the Senate delved into a divisive, “angry, intensely partisan debate” on the Iraq war Thursday, as the announcement came that the U.S. military death toll reached 2,500.
The Senate soundly rejected a call to withdraw combat troops by year’s end, and House Republicans laid the groundwork for their own vote. In a move Democrats criticized as gamesmanship, Senate Republicans brought up the withdrawal measure and quickly dispatched it — for now — on a 93-6 vote.
The debate in both branches of Congress was fueled by a Pentagon distributed “debate prep book” that was filled with ready-made talking points for criticism of the Iraq war and the Republicans had a hey day spewing them out on both floors. AP News reports on the debate prep book: “‘We cannot cut and run,’ the Pentagon battle plan says at one point, anticipating Democratic calls for a troop withdrawal on a fixed timetable.”
The partisan politics maneuver was not lost on the Democrats, as Republicans in both the Senate and House forced the debates in attempt to “put lawmakers of both parties on record on an issue certain to be central in this fall’s congressional elections.” In a statement released Thursday, on the Pentagon “debate prep book” sent out to Republican members of the House and Senate, John Kerry said:
“This is disgusting proof that Republicans are thinking about the politics of Iraq instead of a real debate about the security of our troops. This is how we got into the Iraq mess in the first place. American soldiers are being killed every day in Iraq but somehow Donald Rumsfeld’s crew at the Pentagon has time to write ridiculous talking points that won’t do a thing for young Americans caught in the crossfire. Add this to Karl Rove’s partisan cheerleading and it’s pretty clear where their priorities are. Pathetic. Rumsfeld needs to get focused on our troops, not pages of hollow words and talking points.”
Republican’s in the Senate, armed with their Pentagon talking points attempted to force a debate on legislation that was introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who admitted that his legislation was lifted “from a proposal by” Senator John Kerry. McConnell’s legislation called for the Bush administration to “agree with the Iraqi government on a schedule for withdrawal of combat troops by Dec. 31, 2006.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., reciting from his copy of the Pentagon prep book, said if the U.S. were to withdraw prematurely, “I am absolutely convinced the terrorists would see this as vindication.”
He predicted terrorism would spread around the world, and eventually reach the United States if the United States were to “cut and run” before Iraq can defend itself.
Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada shot back: “Two things that don’t exist in Iraq and have not, weapons of mass destruction, and cutting and running.” He accused Republicans of political gamesmanship and sought to curtail floor debate on the proposal. The vote occurred quickly.
Senators Bill Frist, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn all tried to use a page or two right out of the Pentagon “prep book” (aka Rumsfeld Playbook) on Thursday to force a debate that they have NO interest in really having. Their shallow, transparent manuevers were directed against both Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold, who sources tell me, are are working with others in the Senate on amendment plans and a real, meaningful debate and vote next week.
As noted above, McConnell and crew introduced the phony legislation lifted from directly from John Kerry on his troop withdrawal plan, and then they turned tail and immediately tried to shelve the debate on it. This was the exact same type of partisan B.S. stunt that Tom “the Hammer” DeLay and his crew pulled in the House last year when Rep. John Murtha introduced his Iraq plan, in the famed “Debacle in the House.”
Things got hot on the Senate floor as John Kerry called the phony Senate vote what it was, “a fibbing fictitious vote” and suggested that some of his “colleagues go back and reread the resolution which gave the president the authority to go into Iraq“… From the Floor Transcript:
6.15.06 Senate Floor 3:15pm
MR. KERRY: MR. PRESIDENT, I KNOW THE SENATOR DID —
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA IS RECOGNIZED.
MR. KERRY: I UNDERSTAND. THAT. I WOULD LIKE TO ASK THE INDULGENCE OF THE CHAIRMAN IF AFTER HE IS FINISHED HIS BUSINESS I COULD JUST HAVE A MOMENT. THE PRESIDING OFFICER: WITHOUT OBJECTION.
MR. WARNER: MR. PRESIDENT, THE SENATE NOW TURNS TO —
MR. MCCAIN: I WOULD OBJECT, WHAT IS A MOMENT? IF THE SENATOR PROPOUNDS FOR A SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF TIME I WOULD BE GLAD TO NOT OBJECT. I WONDER WHAT A MOMENT IS.
MR. KERRY: MR. PRESIDENT, I ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT I BE PERMITTED TO HAVE FIVE MINUTES. I THOUGHT THE CONCEPT OF A MOMENT WAS NOT INCOMPREHENSIBLE EVEN IN THE SENATE.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: IS THERE OBJECTION?
MR. WARNER: MR. PRESIDENT, FOLLOWING THAT, I ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT THE SENATOR FROM ARIZONA BE RECOGNIZED.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: IS THERE OBJECTION?
MR. KERRY: MR. PRESIDENT?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS.
MR. KERRY: MR. PRESIDENT, LET ME JUST SAY, IF I MAY, THAT EARLIER TODAY THE DISTINGUISHED CHAIRMAN AND MANAGER OF THIS LEGISLATION CAME TO ME AND ASKED ME IF I WAS PREPARED TO PUT MY AMENDMENT IN. AND I TOLD HIM THEN, AS HE KNOWS, THAT I SAID NO BECAUSE A NUMBER OF US SENATORS WERE TALKING AS IS THE RIGHT OF THE SENATOR WITH RESPECT TO ANY AMENDMENT FILED. AND SO THE CHAIRMAN AND MANAGER WAS ON NOTICE THAT WE WERE IN FACT IN THE PROCESS OF WORKING ON THIS.
I VOTED NO ON THIS BECAUSE, MR. PRESIDENT, ANY SENATOR RESERVES THAT RIGHT, NUMBER ONE, AND NUMBER TWO, THIS IS A DEBATE I LOOK FORWARD TO.
THIS IS A DEBATE I WANT TO HAVE ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE AND IT IS A — THIS IS A DEBATE WE WILL HAVE ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE.
I RESENT THAT THE FACT THAT SOME SENATORS THINK THAT THE BUSINESS IS BETTER DONE BY CALLING UP THE WHAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE THE LANGUAGE OF THE SENATOR’S AMENDMENT AND HAVE A FIBBING FICTITIOUS VOTE ON.
WE’RE IN THE THIRD WAR. THE FIRST BEING ABOUT SADDAM HUSSEIN AND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, THE SECOND ABOUT AL QAEDA AND THE THIRD SECTTARIAN VIOLENCES.
I LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING A DEBATE, BUT I LOOK FORWARD ON HAVING A DEBATE ON THE AMENDMENT THAT I BRING AS A SENATOR. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THE PREROGATIVE OF A SENATOR.
I RESPECT AND UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY WHAT THE DISTINGUISHED MINORITY LEADER DID. HE DID IT WITH CONSULTATION WITH ME AND I THINK IT WAS THE APPROPRIATE MEASURER FOR HIM TO TAKE TO PROTECT MY INTERESTS AND THE INTERESTS OF THOSE OF US ON OUR SIDE.
I THINK REALLY THE SENATE OUGHT TO GIVE A MORE APPROPRIATE KIND OF SERIOUSNESS OF PURPOSE, IF YOU WILL, TO DEBATE OF THIS KIND OF CONSEQUENCE.
THIS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME IN SOME TIME THAT WE WILL HAVE DEBATED THIS ISSUE. I SUGGEST SOME OF MY COLLEAGUES GO BACK AND REREAD THE RESOLUTION WHICH GAVE THE PRESIDENT THE AUTHORITY TO GO INTO IRAQ.
THERE’S NOTHING IN THAT RESOLUTION THAT GIVES AUTHORITY FOR WHAT WE’RE DOING TODAY.
SO IN EFFECT, THIS IS A WAR OF EVOLUTION, A WAR OF TRANSFORMATION. AND IT DESERVES THE KIND OF SERIOUS DEBATE THAT IT WILL GET NEXT WEEK IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE. I THANK THE CHAIR.
MR. WARNER: MR. PRESIDENT?
Contrary to Republican/Pentagon talking points and MSM distortions — “Senate Rejects Call for Iraq Withdrawal” — the Senate did not vote on any Iraq “plan” on Thursday. The “vote” was nothing more than a vote to dismiss a cheap political stunt cooked up by Mitch McConnell and his cronies, Bill Frist and John Cornyn.
My sources tell me that the Senate will have a real debate and a real vote on withdrawal next week. Period. Republicans needs to get focused on our troops, who Bush and the GOP have dropped the ball on; and on having a real, honest debate about the path forward in Iraq.
Enough of these these B.S. talking points and enough of these staged phony debates. Let’s have a real debate on Iraq.