Friday, July 20, 2007

Wow! 94-3 vote in the Senate not to close Gitmo

Here's Hugh Hewitt's take:

After a couple of Republican amendments failed, Mitch McConnell took to the floor and offered his own amendment, which was a Sense of the Senate that Guantanamo detainees not be allowed released or moved to U.S. soil. To conservatives, this obviously makes sense. To liberals, especially California’s Dianne Feinstein, one of the chief proponents of the effort to close the detention center at Gitmo and relocate these detainees into the American justice system, especially when tagged onto a student loan and grant bill, you’d think this measure would go down in flames. Except a funny thing happened. The bill was titled in a way that you had to vote yes to vote no, and no to vote yes. The final vote was 94-3, officially putting the Senate on record as saying terrorist detainees shouldn’t be moved to the U.S. Before the Democrats, who clearly hadn’t read the amendment, realized they screwed up, the vote was recorded.

Jim DeMint of South Carolina was the author of the next amendment in line, had just gotten the consent of Bernie Sanders, the presiding officer, to order the yeas and nays. Up stepped Massachusetts senior Senator Ted Kennedy, now obviously aware that he and his colleagues just got bamboozled, and went on a full-throated rant, with reckless disregard to obvious hypocrisy, and blasted DeMint and the Republicans for slowing down the works in the Senate. The rant is worth hearing, so here it is.

Once the rant was over, Kennedy threw the Senate into a quorum call so that the Democrats could regroup. The session progressed well into the night, and McConnell could easily have rested on his laurels, but he wasn’t finished. Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar offered his own irrelevant amendment, asking for a sense of the Senate that President Bush not pardon Scooter Libby. McConnell, with that wry smile he offers when he’s up to something, countered with a secondary amendment to Salazar’s, saying that if it’s fair to bring up the Senate’s view of potential future inappropriate pardons, maybe we should also have a sense of the Senate of past inappropriate pardons, and proceeded to maneuver the Senate clerk into reading off the laundry list of Clinton administration pardons, including those of Marc Rich and others, which again set the Democrats off in a tailspin. After throwing the Senate back into a quorum call for half an hour, the beleaguered Harry Reid came out and pulled the Salazar amendment off the floor. He’d been Mitchslapped twice in one night.

Here's the NY Times' take on the vote:
The peas, carrots and kernels of corn weren’t flying in the Senate chamber, but that’s only because dinner is served elsewhere — otherwise democracy descended into a near-food fight as a Republican effort to block a vote on a higher education bill turned into a fusillade of politically charged amendments to the bill with no other purpose than to insult and infuriate the other side of the aisle.

Among the interesting legislative work of the evening was a proposal by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, “to provide limited immunity for reports of suspicious behavior and response.”

The amendment read in part: “Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion makes, or cause to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under Federal, State and local law for such report.”

Then there was the amendment by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, to express the sense of the Senate on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It said in part:

“During the War on Terror, senior members of al Qaeda have been captured by the United States military and intelligence personnel and their allies. Many such senior members of al Qaeda have since been transferred to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay” The amendment then goes on to name many senior members of Al Qaeda. “It is the sense of the Senate that detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should not be released into American society, nor should they be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities and neighborhoods.” The amendment passed.

But it was an amendment by Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, chastising President Bush for commuting the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, that got the senators in an uproar.


Meanwhile, the senators milled about like guests at a cocktail party with no drinks. Instead of going up to the bar, many of them stepped forward to register their votes. Mr. Salazar’s amendment failed, 47 to 49. Among those voting no was Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who seemed exasperated by the deadlock over the higher education bill of which he is the primary sponsor.

But the political food fight was not over yet. Mr. McConnell then introduced an amendment criticizing former President Clinton for pardoning terrorists, sex offenders and other criminals. Mrs. Clinton had left the chamber, though it was unclear if she knew what Mr. McConnnell was about to do.
Go read the rest, it's very funny (also, you Democrats who have been bleating about Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence should appreciate the listing of all of Clinton's pardons -- it might help you understand why we laugh at your bleating).

BTW, this is a pretty brilliant move on the part of McConnell for future moves by the Senate to close Gitmo. If they attempt to do so, he can remind them that the voted not to move the prisoners to American communities. It would also make very nice flip-flop commercials (they voted to protect you from these prisoners before they voted against it).