Seven Republican Senators — seven renegade samurai, or ronin — have essentially blasted in a letter just prepared in the last hour both the Democratic and Republican leadership for behind-the-scenes gamesmanship that undermined a floor debate about America’s options in Iraq.
While American citizens saw a procedural motion to move to “debate” the Warner-Levin Iraq War Resolution lose a 49-47 vote, what they did not see was a snarling, nasty tug-of-war between Reid and Durbin on one side and McConnell and Lott on the other that ripped the guts out of any possible comity needed to get to that debate.
TWN has learned that Senators John Warner, Olympia Snowe, and Chuck Hagel — and others — were highly irritated, angry in fact, with both sides and elected to vote against the procedural motion until the party leaders on both sides of the aisle ceased their antics.
I was as confused as anyone by the votes cast by Warner, Snowe and Hagel who were real stakeholders in the resolution that was being fought over. But it is now clear that in the eyes of these Senators, the Republican Party leadership and the majority Democrats chose to slug each other silly in ways that preempted any ability to secure the votes needed to assure debate. In that circumstance, the Senators who have signed the letter below decided to vote against the resolution in that climate.
Essentially, these seven Senators have said to their own Republican leadership and the Democrats to “shape up” or a “pox on both your houses.”
I think it’s a brave move — and explains a lot.
Here is the signed letter as a pdf.
Here is what the letter says:
February 7, 2007
The Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader
The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader
The Honorable Richard Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader
The Honorable Trent Lott, Assistant Republican Leader
United States Senate — Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Senator Durbin and Senator Lott:
The war in Iraq is the most pressing issue of our time. It urgently deserves the attention of the full Senate and a full debate on the Senate floor without delay.
We respectfully advise you, our leaders, that we intend to take S. Con. Res 7 and offer it, where possible under the Standing Rules of the Senate, to bills coming before the Senate.
On January 10,2007, the President stated, with respect to his Iraq strategy, “if Members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change we will adjust.” In a conscientious, respectful way, we offered our resolution consistent with the President’s statement.
We strongly believe the Senate should be allowed to work its will on our resolution as well as the concepts brought forward by other Senators. Monday’s procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts of S. Con. Res. 7.
We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor. The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.
This letter is going to reopen the possibilities of what could happen regarding the much needed national debate on the Senate floor on America’s course in Iraq.
The “huge get” of this letter is Senator GEORGE VOINOVICH. He was not on any of the previous resolutions.
So where are MURKOWSKI, SUNUNU, BROWNBACK, and SPECTER?
— Steve Clemons