Friday, November 09, 2007

Mukasey and Cheney's Impeachment (Updated)

Why did I choose that title instead of maybe Mukasey and Torture? I did so because I want to point out the similarities in the political dynamics reflected in the respective votes in the Senate and the House. I'll start with the Mukasey vote.

The Senate confirmed Mukasey last night by a vote of 53-40. That tally is important for several reasons, which I'll get to in a moment. All the Republicans voted to confirm, except for Alexander (TN), Cornyn (TX), and McCain (AZ), all three of whom skipped the vote. Six Democrats voted for confirmation: Bayh (IN), Carper (DE), Feinstein (CA), Landrieu (LA), Nelson (NE), Schumer (NY) and Lieberman (Technically an independent, but he calls himself an independent Democrat and caucuses with them so I include him with the Dems CT). The Democrats who didn't vote included Biden (DE), Clinton (NY), Dodd (CT) and Obama (IL). You'll notice all the no shows, except for Cornyn, who was at a fund-raiser in Texas with Bush, are running for election next year (Alexander for Senate in TN), but with this particular vote the Dems who ditched are more important.

Now back to that tally: 53 votes to confirm. Notice something about that number? It's not 60. That's how many are needed to head off a filibuster. If you're wondering why a filibuster didn't happen you're not the only one. This morning I read this piece by Glenn Greenwald, who calls himself a conservative, but for some reason is on the moonbat side of just about every issue. Here's some of what he has to say:
Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.


But it isn't true that there is a "60-vote requirement," because only Republicans are willing to impose it. Democrats won't, even on what they claim are the gravest of matters, such as confirming someone as Attorney General who is "dead wrong on torture" and who won't even "tell the president that he cannot ignore the laws passed by Congress."


The so-called "60-vote requirement" applies only when it is time to do something to limit the Bush administration. It is merely the excuse Senate Democrats use to explain away their chronic failure/unwillingness to limit the President, and it is what the media uses to depict the GOP filibuster as something normal and benign. There obviously is no "60-vote requirement" when it comes to having the Senate comply with the President's demands, as the 53-vote confirmation of Michael Mukasey amply demonstrates. But as Mukasey is sworn in as the highest law enforcement officer in America, the Democrats want you to know that they most certainly did stand firm and "registered their displeasure."
Ouch! It appears that what Greenwald has noticed, but doesn't come right out and say, is that most Democrats really don't agree with the moonbats that a vote for Mukasey is a vote for torture, otherwise they would have filibustered and those Democrats who didn't vote wouldn't have let the fact they're campaigning prevent them voting against confirmation. Of course they all paid lip service to nutroots sentiment, but when it came down to the nitty gritty they didn't back it up with action.

Now let's compare this to what happened with Dennis Kucinich's move the other day offering a resolution requiring House members to vote on whether or not to open up for debate the impeachment of Dick Cheney. There were three alternatives that House members could have taken: They could have voted for the resolution, meaning the ball would have been rolling on impeachment; they could have voted to "table" the resolution, a procedural movement that would have killed it; or voted to send it back to the Judiciary committee, which, while not killing the resolution outright, would have sent it back to committee where it would sit with Kucinich's previous impeachment resolution, which still hasn't been acted on because the House leadership (Pelosi and Hoyer) said a while back that impeachment is off the table.

Okay, so to get things started Steny Hoyer introduced a resolution to table (kill) the resolution. At first it looked as if the motion to table would pass handily, with all the Republicans and enough Democrats voting that way. Then the Republicans got sneaky. A bunch of them decided to change their votes to stop the motion, thereby giving Kucinich, and presumably the rest of the Democrats who voted his way, what they wanted; for the matter to be debated. The vote ended up 251-162 against tabling the resolution. Yay! The moonbats should have then been ecstatic! Finally the House would debate impeaching Cheney for allegedly lying us into war. But no. A short time later another motion was introduced by the Dems to send the resolution back to committee, which as mentioned is almost as good as killing it. Guess what happened? 81 of the Democrats who voted against tabling the resolution when they were pretty sure they would be on the losing side turned around and voted for sending it to the Judiciary Committee. Ouch! They wanted to make it appear they were all for bringing impeachment up for debate (and appeasing the nutroots), but when it looked like it would really happen they ran to stop it!

Given these two votes in the House and Senate, it's obvious that most of the Democrats are simply pandering to the moonbat reality based community because it's a handy fund-raising entity. Some of them are beginning to get wise to the game. Recently the word primary has started being used as a verb among the nutroots clan. As in "We need to make sure Pelosi, Hoyer, and any other Democrat who doesn't vote the way we want gets primaried."

As I've noted before, there's an obvious fracture opening in the Democratic party between those who live in the real world and others whose political world views are dictated entirely by the online echo-chambers populated by paranoid, delusional goofballs. Interesting times lay ahead.

Update Oops! Correction: I just read McQ's post over at QandO and was reminded of something regarding Glenn Greenwald's commentary on the Mukasey vote:
Or it could have something to do with regular legislative business in the Senate requiring 60 votes and judicial nominations, by agreement, not requiring them. How soon we forget all the talk about the "nuclear option", the "gang of 14" and the difference between a judicial filibuster and a legislative one.

The short version is the Constitution gives the Senate the power to make its own rules. Under Rule 22 either by unanimous agreement (aka "unanimous consent") or at least 60 votes on a motion to invoke cloture, the Senate must end debate before it can vote on anything to do with legislation. Got that? Legislative filibusters have a long tradition and Rule 22 upholds that Senate tradition.

However a different agreement for judicial nominations has been in place since the 109th Congress, which, of course, would apply any nomination coming from the Senate judiciary committee. That agreement was forged by a group known as the "Gang of 14" who have, in effect, agreed that Rule 22 for judicial nominations won't apply by refusing to become party to filibusters against nominees. In the closely divided Senate, the refusal of 7 Senators on each side to participate in judicial filibusters (which have been described by many as unconstitutional anyway) has effectively nullified thee use of the filibuster there. Thus there is no 60 vote requirement for a cloture since there is no cloture vote. Consequently all judiciary committee nominees can be confirmed with a simple majority. (em)
I'd forgotten all about the "gang of 14" agreement concerning filibusters of judicial nominations. I should have known better than to rely on Greenwald's take. Of course, I don't claim to be a constitutional scholar as he does. In any event, my point still stands somewhat because the Senators running for President, who voiced their opposition to Mukasey, didn't bother to vote. Also, if Greenwald doesn't remember the nuclear option drama from a few years ago, or if he does but is pretending not to, then it's a good bet that most of his readers (moonbats) believe his take on the matter; that the Democrats had the option of filibustering the vote but chose not to. By the way, he hasn't updated his post with a correction yet. I looked on memeorandum and at least two other lefty blogs had followed his lead. Marty Lederman at Balkinization simply deleted the post without issuing a correction and this guy hasn't corrected his post and so far none of his commenters have pointed out the error. I'm still sloshing through the comments to Greenwald's post to see if any of them tip him off.

Update II Okay, I'm confused now. It has been mentioned elsewhere that this wasn't specifically a judicial nomination (for a judge) so the "gang of 14" rule doesn't apply and even if it does Senators have the option of ignoring it under "extraordinary circumstances." That would bring us back to the original question of why none of the Democrats believed this vote to constitute extraordinary circumstances given their melodramatic performances speaking out against Mukasey. If and when I get this sorted out I'll post another update.

Update III: Okay, forget the second update because there was no cloture vote, which is to break off debate (filibuster), so it's safe to assume the Senate was operating under the gang of 14 rule.

Update IV: Perhaps all these corrections and updates are meaningless. It's still unclear what kind of behind the scenes deal making was going on. I'll put up a fresh post tomorrow with the latest info.