Reid Invokes Rule 21, Democrats in Revolt
Kevin Drum reports:
Huh? Harry Reid has invoked Rule 21 and placed the Senate into closed session to discuss the intelligence that led to war? What’s up with that?
UPDATE: Bill Schneider on CNN calls it a “full scale revolt” by Democrats.
1517: More from AP:
Senate Goes Into Unusual Closed Session On Iraq War (NBC4)
Senate Meets in Closed Session to Discuss Intelligence, Libby (WaPo)
Democrats Force Senate Into Iraq Meeting (Yahoo)
Democrats Force Senate Closed Session on Iraq Intelligence (LAT)
Democrats Force Senate Into Closed Session Over Iraq Data (NYT)
Democrats force Senate into unusual closed session (CNN)
Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, demanding answers about intelligence that led to the Iraq war. Republicans derided the move as a political stunt. In a speech on the Senate floor, Democratic leader Harry Reid said the American people and U.S. troops deserved to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war, particularly in light of the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. With a second by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, senators filed to their seats on the floor and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances. “The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions,” Reid said before the doors were closed.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Reid was making “some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak.” A former majority leader, Lott said a closed session is appropriate for such overarching matters as impeachment and chemical weapons — the two topics that last sent the senators into such sessions. In addition, Lott said, Reid’s move violated the Senate’s tradition of courtesy and consent. But there was nothing in Senate rules enabling Republicans to thwart Reid’s effort.
1528: Democrats Force Closed Session of Senate Over Intelligence Use (Bloomberg)
U.S. Senate Democrats forced a closed session of the Senate to address the Bush administration’s use of intelligence, a maneuver Republicans dismissed as a political “stunt.”
Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid invoked a rule that requires a closed session on the Senate floor in which the galleries are cleared of visitors, to discuss whether the Bush administration’s use of intelligence before the Iraq War should be the subject of congressional investigations.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called the move “an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.”
If Reid doesn’t have more up his sleeves than a publicity stunt, this will surely backfire.
The U.S. Senate prepared to go into closed session Tuesday after Democrats enacted a rare parliamentary rule forcing the shutdown of the chamber so senators could speak in a classified session about the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (search) demanded the chamber be closed so they could hold a secret session that they say was prompted by “misinformation and disinformation” given by President Bush and his administration prior to entry into the war in Iraq.
Republicans, who were clearly caught off-guard by the maneuver, called the move “gutter” politics. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) of Tennessee said the chamber was “hijacked” by Democrats. “Once again, it shows the Democrats use scare tactics. They have no conviction. They have no principles. They have no ideas,” Frist said. “But this is the ultimate. Since I’ve been majority leader, I’ll have to say, not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader have ever I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.”
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller said Democrats were promised by committee chairman Pat Roberts that oversight would be conducted on the war, but nothing has been done yet.
Durbin said Democrats want to discuss launching “phase two” of a committee investigation into whether Bush and the administration misused data to justify war in Iraq. “The purpose of this closed session in the Senate chamber is to finally give the truth to at least the members of the Senate, to finally call to task the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” said House Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.
A closed session is called when any senator demands one and a second motion is made. No vote is taken on whether to close the session. The last time a closed session was held was 25 years ago, Rockefeller said.
Republican Sen. Trent Lott, the former majority leader, said that the rule had been invoked two or three times under his tenure as majority leader, but only after a pre-arranged, negotiated discussion. “This is not the way it has been done,” Lott said. “We would never surprise each other … This is very unfortunate for the Senate. It’s not to say there isn’t important information to be discussed … but I’m astounded by this.”
Since the Libby indictment has already called attention to the intelligence and use of intelligence that led up to the war, it’s not clear what Reid and Co. hope to accomplish. Certainly, this only adds to the already bitter tone of the Senate.
(16oo:) Oh, me. Kevin Drum updates:
Here are the talking points emailed out by Reid’s office:
* Most important decision a President makes is to put American lives at risk and go to war.
* Many of us supported the decision to invade Iraq based on the national intelligence presented at the time.
* Over the past few months, and vividly last Friday, weÃ¢€™ve learned that we were given bad information. Americans were intentionally deceived.
* White House indictments confirm Republicans tried to silence critics and cover up the real intelligence.
* America deserves answers. National security is at stake.
* If mistakes were made, we need to know. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat them.
* Republicans committed to investigate how national intelligence was used to set the stage for war.
* Now, they are refusing to keep that commitment. What are they afraid of America learning?
* Republicans must come clean. It is our shared responsibility to be straight with the American people.
* Stakes could not be higher. That is why we are demanding answers through an unprecedented closed Senate session.
* We will not let up until America gets answers.
* Together, America Can Do Better”
Reid has been elected to the United States Senate and risen to the ranks of Minority Leader, so it is not inconceivable that his political instincts are better than mine. Still, this strikes me as mindnumbingly stupid.
The president is doing very poorly in the polls for a variety of reasons, with Iraq being the biggest. The Libby indictment and continual speculation over Rove and Cheney will ensure that the hint of scandal surrounds the war and the administration in general for months to come. It seems that juvenile grandstanding on the part of his opponents will only serve to help the president.
(1633:) I would note, too, that it is not like there has been no investigation into this matter up until now. Aside from the special prosecutor, who spent two years on this, we have had at least one major commission report and a Senate Intelligence ommittee report. Not to mention a presidential election, an election for the entire 435 seats of the House of Representatives, and an election for one third of the Senate, to include the sitting Minority Leader (who lost).
Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (March 31, 2005)
(1446:) CNN TV is reporting that the Senate has re-opened for business.