Saturday, December 19, 2009

This goes beyond spin – it’s lying

Senate Republicans Filibuster Defense Spending Bill — Then Deny They Did It

The Republicans have shown that they will stoop to shameful and despicable tactics to stop the passage of health care reform. The Grand Obstructionist Party (the Party of No) is now a party of clowns who have forgone the work of legislating to stage circus stunts and then refuse to admit they are doing so. Late last night, while our troops were in harm’s way on two battlefields, the Republicans decided to deprive our soldiers of needed funding, by attempting to block passage of the military spending bill using a filibuster. Fortunately, all 60 Democratic votes were available to overcome the parliamentary assault on our troops by Republicans.

Why did the Republicans jeopardize vital funding for our troops in a time of war? It was a calculated stunt to delay the debate on health care reform – and nothing else matters to the obstructionist Republicans, not even the safety of our troops. If Democrats had pulled such a stunt during a time of war, they would have been attacked as treasonous.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) wasn’t even ashamed enough to lie about Republican reasons to block war funding. “I don’t want health care,” he said. Other GOP lawmakers pointed to the earmarks in the defense funding bill, but the results were the same. Every Republican Senator voted against the defense funding bill in a 63 to 33 vote, except for the two Senators from Maine, Snowe and Collins, and Sen. Hutchison from Texas. And even those three Republican lawmakers didn’t record their votes until all 60 members of the Democratic caucus had voted.

At this point in the health care reform debate, most people are well aware that the Republican strategy is to delay the vote as long as possible, even if it means dragging out debate on unrelated bills that GOP leaders support. That tactic was on display in October, when it took nearly a month to push through an extension of unemployment benefits that ultimately passed 98 to 0.

With their hypocrisy on full display, Republicans filibustered the $636.3 billion 2010 defense spending bill that every member of the party will eventually vote for. They did this as a way of delaying a return to the health care debate, which Democrats are trying to finish by Christmas. But on a 63-33 vote that at 1 a.m., the Senate finally mustered more than the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster and move to a final vote on the defense bill, scheduled for Saturday morning. Three Republicans joined with Democrats in voting to end the filibuster. Forcing that cloture vote is what is necessary to end a filibuster.

From Roll Call:
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) accused Republicans of attempting to filibuster the Defense bill, which includes funding for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an effort to block work on the health care bill. Then, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ) and other Republicans, however, sought to place the blame for the funding delay on the Democrats, accusing them of dragging their feet in bringing the bill to the floor and arguing that they [Republicans] are prepared to pass the bill.

I find it rather curious that our colleague … is accusing Republicans of filibustering this Defense appropriations bill. Republicans don’t control the Senate or the House. The House just passed this bill Wednesday. Now, it could have been passed in October or September,” Kyl lied, adding that, “We always vote for the Defense appropriations bill.”

Moments later, Kyl refused an attempt to pass the defense bill immediately by unanimous consent. Then, a few hours later, he voted against bringing the defense bill to a final vote. These are the actions of a dishonest politician.

It is essential to pass the funding bill this week, because a Pentagon stopgap funding measure is due to expire at midnight Friday. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was furious at the Republican tactics. He sent an angry letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasting the Republican stunt that would cause a “serious disruption” in the military’s ability to pay its troops during Christmas. “It is inconceivable to me that such a situation would be permitted to occur with U.S. forces actively deployed in combat,” Gates wrote.

The Republicans voting with Kyl should be forced to explain why they sought to kill a bill that provides troop funding in the middle of two wars. “They are prepared to jeopardize funding for troops at war,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “If Democrats did that, there would be cries of treason.” And yet GOP leaders have the audacity to argue that (1) they didn’t really filibuster the defense bill and (2) the Democrats are behind all the delays.

This isn’t spin – it’s lying. These Republicans are pulling dirty tricks (as usual) and then lying as they point their fingers at the Democrats and saying “they did it.”