Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Major Doin's in the Senate

The Senate went into an extraordinary closed session earlier this afternoon, after a motion by Minority Leader Harry Reid to invoke Rule XXI of the Senate: "On a motion made and seconded to close the doors of the Senate, on the discussion of any business which may, in the opinion of a Senator, require secrecy, the Presiding Officer shall direct the galleries to be cleared; and during the discussion of such motion the doors shall remain closed."

Senator Reid made the motion following a barn-stormer of a speech offering an indictment of the intelligence mistakes leading up to the Iraq war and faulting the Republican leadership in Congress for their failure to exercise oversight either before or after the war. "I demand on behalf of the America people that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted," Reid said. His full remarks are here.

The GOP leadership seemed caught completely off guard by Reid's speech and motion; Frist, literally sputtering, said "The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership. They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas." He added that he thought he would be "unable to trust" Senator Reid for the rest of this congressional session.

This is quite a step, and a most interesting tactic for the Democrats to use. It will certainly be worth watching to see what happens with any fallout from this. I cannot say that I completely disagree with Reid's tactics here; sometimes a little surprise is the only way to get things moving.

Steve Clemons has a good background post on this maneuver.

[Update: From the statements coming out just following the closed session, it would appear that the Senate agreed during the closed session on a timetable for "Phase II" of the Intelligence Committee's report on pre-war intelligence. This second phase is supposed to deal with the manipulation of intelligence data by the Administration. -- 4:42 p.m.]


At 7:19 PM, Blogger pacatrue said...

I found all of this quite confusing as well. On the one hand, as my posts have indicated, I have been wondering for a long time whether there was a deliberate attempt by the Administration, not simply to build the most persuasive case they can, but to deliberately mislead the public upon the rationale for the Iraq war - since they knew the real rationale of general regime change would not fly. On the other hand, the actual closed door session surely seemed to be a political stunt. After all, Reid made all his accusations in the open, so what was the purpose in going closed door? It doesn't appear that any actual secret information was discussed. They could easily have appointed some people to work on the Phase II timetable in public.

So in the end, I guess we had a stunt. If the stunt helps get people moving in the right direction - doing a true inquiry - then I guess it's good. It is, of course, a sad and telling sign that it was necessary. A good explanation, however, for why silly stunts are required came immediately from Frist's declaration that Democratic leadership has no leadership, no principles, and no ideas.

I see a bright new era of moderate bipartisanship right around the corner.


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