After Midnight, Passions High - Energy Waning
As the debate rolled on deep into the early morning hours of the round-the-clock consideration of a Democratic amendment to halt the Iraq war, speeches were still impassioned as ever. Just past 1 a.m., Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) took the floor pleading for a simple majority vote on the Levin-Reed amendment. "The American people are sick of seeing our brave men and women killed," said Harkin.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), 22 years Harkin's junior at the age of 45, followed the Iowan on the floor declaring that the enemy U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq is the same as the battlefields of Afghanistan. "My support for this war is not open ended," Thune said, adding that he wants to see how the U.S. generals determine the effectiveness of the surge of tens of thousands of additional troops into Baghdad this year. "This debate should not be about how quickly we can withdraw from Iraq."
But interest in the late-night votes waned, with 91 senators showing up for the quorum call held at 8:30 p.m. and just 80 showing up for the midnight call. Technically, since this measure won a majority, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could have ordered those missing 22 rounded up by the Capitol Police, which would have marked the first such instance since then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) was arrested after failing to appear at a quorum call 20 years ago during a campaign finance debate.
As the vote rolled on, Reid was surrounded by nearly 10 Senate Democrats, who gleefully lobbied him on something. From the press gallery we can't hear their conversations but within minutes, Reid announced that the next procedural vote would not occur until some time after 5 a.m.
Some more observations from the late-night vote and debate:
â€¢ Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made it back to the midnight vote from a presidential campaign stop in Ohio, after missing the earlier quorum call.
â€¢ After better attendance at the first vote, Republicans abandoned the midnight quorum call, with 13 absences.
â€¢ Of the 22 absentee senators, seven of them were more than 70 years old: Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), 89; Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), 70; Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 74; Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), 82; James Inhofe (R-Okla.), 72; Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), 70; and John McCain (R-Ariz.), 70.
â€¢ The youngest senators to miss the midnight vote were a quartet of 55-and-under Republicans: Richard Burr (N.C.), 51; John Cornyn (Texas), 55; James DeMint (S.C.), 55; and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), 52.
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