Iraq Around the Clock
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., more than 5 hours into what Democrats hoped would be an historic debate on the future course of the Iraq debate, the Senate convened for its first procedural vote unofficially known as a live quorum call. The note at the clerk's desk on each side of the Senate chamber had the letters written out in huge, all-capitalized, bold-faced, block letters: NOTICE TO INSTRUCT THE SERGEANT AT ARMS TO REQUEST THE PRESENCE OF ABSENT SENATORS.
An "aye" vote means you're in favor of calling out the Capitol Police to arrest missing senators. However, perhaps in a sign of the frustration of anti-war activists so far this year, Democrats couldn't get enough of their own caucus on hand to win this vote, losing 44-47. Alas, the absent senators -- Democrats Joseph Biden (Del.), Robert C. Byrd (W. Va.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Barack Obama (Ill.), Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.) and Republicans Thad Cochran (Miss.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Trent Lott (Miss.) -- would not be arrested.
So things went in the first round-the-clock debate since 2003 -- it continues this morning. Democrats have been passionately arguing for Republicans to allow a simple majority vote to their amendments to end the war, knowing that they have anywhere from 53 to 56 votes to do so, while Republicans have contended that the all-night debate is a "charade", as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled it after the failed quorum-call vote around 8:30 pm.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning more quorum-call votes in order to force the entire Senate to pay attention to the debate -- and more importantly, to force Capitol Briefing and the rest of the congressional press corps to report out the details of the debate. Democrats hope that the more attention that is focused on this debate, the more pressure is placed on Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2008 to buckle against President Bush's war planning.
So far, here's a round-up of the highlights, lowlights and other notable occurrences in the debate. (For more background on the event, check out the story written by Shailagh Murray and Capitol Briefing.
â€¢ Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) has stepped up his independence more than ever. At 3 p.m., the onetime Democratic vice-presidential nominee stood with the entire Senate GOP leadership, as well as Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Republican National Committee, at a press conference denouncing the Levin-Reed amendment calling for a near complete withdrawal by next May. On the quorum-call vote Lieberman voted with Republicans. (FYI: Lieberman actually votes with Democrats more often than anti-war-icon Byrd.) Just before 11 p.m., in a floor speech, Lieberman noted the cots placed just off the chamber if anyone needs power nap, declaring that he hoped that Democrats would lay down on those and "wake up. ... It's time for all of us to wake up to what's happening in Iraq. ... Redeployment is nothing more than mandated defeat."
â€¢ Senate leaders do not eat as healthy as they once did. McConnell's office served a dinner buffet for lawmakers and staff consisting of Chick-fil-A. His predecessor, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a heart surgeon, frowned on fast foods and made his staff compete in healthy walking contests. Capitol Briefing is confident in saying Chick-fil-A was never served openly in the four years Frist served as GOP leader. By contrast, Reid and Democrats served up Al's Pizza, despite the fact that Reid stunned the press corps Monday when he was asked what kind of pizza would be ordered: "I personally don't like pizza," Reid said.
â€¢ The cots that were brought into the Senate chamber have gone, as expected, empty. About eight are lined up in two rows inside the Lyndon Baines Johnson Room off the Senate floor, where Democrats regularly meet. However, senior aides report that Reid has his own personal cot in his office suites and will be sleeping in the Capitol all night.
â€¢ According to Obama's campaign public schedule, he was to be in Cincinnati tonight for a rally. However, if all goes as planned, he will be on the Senate floor sometime between 6 and 7 a.m., with the preferred time no doubt being right at 7 a.m. when the network morning shows kick off. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, is slated to speak in the wee hours of the morning.
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