On Iraq, a debate over the debate

Reid, McConnell argue and negotiate over the way forward on the Warner-Levin resolution.

Published February 5, 2007 8:04PM (EST)

In an interview on MSNBC earlier today, Sen. Trent Lott said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will "probably" work out an agreement to open debate today over the John Warner-Carl Levin anti-escalation resolution. Maybe they will, but they're plainly not there yet.

McConnell has threatened to filibuster the Warner-Levin resolution if the Democrats don't allow Republicans to bring to the floor a slew of other resolutions and amendments designed to muddy the waters and force Democrats to vote on the sort of stronger measures -- like, say, a cutoff of funding for the war -- that they're not yet ready to support. Reid has offered to allow votes on John McCain's escalate-with-benchmarks resolution and an amendment offered by Judd Gregg in the hopes of getting McConnell to allow a vote on the Warner-Levin measure, but McConnell doesn't seem to be interested in that deal so far.

On the Senate floor a few moments ago, McConnell argued that by Senate rules and traditions, a single senator can stop the proceedings from going forward. Reid countered that "everyone in America" wants the Senate to debate the Iraq war, and he challenged McConnell to produce a single senator who is willing to "stand up like a ... like a ... like a senator who believes in something" and say no to starting that debate.

McConnell said that there are "many" senators on his side of the aisle who would do so, but he didn't name names, and he was the only one speaking at the time.

A cloture vote remains on the schedule for 5:30 p.m. today. McConnell said he hoped that the two sides would engage in further negotiations before then. In the meantime, the two leaders' surrogates will continue to fight it out on the floor. Democrat Dick Durbin just complained that the GOP threat to filibuster is derailing the "amazing progress" the Senate has made toward bipartisanship in recent days, while Lott said that the Democrats are playing a game of "show and tell" when they say that Republicans are obstructing a full debate on Iraq. "We know that our leaders are going to find a way to work this out," he said. "So why are we here to accuse each other of unfairness or trying to block debate?"

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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