Senate Dems Vow to Pull All-Nighter to Force Iraq Vote

GOP calls Sen. Reid's threat to keep Senate in session political theater.

ByABC News
February 11, 2009, 6:01 PM

July 17, 2007 — -- Senators are apparently set to pull an all-nighter today after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he'd keep the Senate in session to consider forcing an Iraq troop withdrawal deadline on President Bush.

Democrats want to vote on their binding amendment to place a timetable on withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, but Republican leaders don't want to let them.

The Republicans, as is their right, are insisting the amendment get 60 votes to pass a procedural motion to limit debate, but that cloture vote will likely come after the all-nighter, some time Wednesday.

"If the Republicans are going to play procedural games then they're going to have to live with the fact that the American people are going to be watching this all night," Reid said.

Because Republicans won't consent to an up or down vote, Democrats say they are filibustering. The filibuster is, for the most part, a thing of the past. It's not Jimmy Stewart reading off letters and ma's recipe to literally keep the place from functioning. Nowadays, senators simply say they will filibuster and agree to respect each other's right to do so and move on.

But in this case, Reid said he is going to keep everyone tonight to teach them a lesson.

"We've talked a lot about filibusters, but, you know, people have gotten pretty lazy about filibusters around here," Reid said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. "They just say, 'OK, you're going to filibuster. OK, we'll back off then.' That isn't the way it's going to be on Iraq, the most important issue facing the American people."

While Reid's homage to the filibuster could make for good late-night television, it probably will not change the outcome of anything. When the Senate votes on cloture for the withdrawal amendment Wednesday, no matter how long senators stay tonight, it is unlikely to reach the 60-vote threshold.

In that regard, Reid's gesture is as much theater as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Despite a number of high-profile rhetorical defections from the White House among Republicans, most will probably not support the proposal, offered as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, to withdraw all combat troops out of Iraq by April of 2008 and transition those remaining troops to train Iraqi troops, perform counterterror operations and help patrol Iraq's borders.