At this point in the health-reform debate, observers are well aware that the Republican strategy is to delay the vote as long as possible, even if it means dragging out debate on unrelated bills that GOP leaders support. That agenda was on display in October, when it took nearly a month to push through an extension of unemployment benefits that ultimately passed 98 to 0. And it’s on display today, as Republicans are forcing a long-drawn debate on a defense spending bill that every member of the party will eventually vote for.
The tactic forced Democratic leaders to stage a 1 a.m. cloture vote this morning on the defense bill, in hopes of passing the final bill tomorrow morning and moving back to the health-care debate. Forcing that cloture vote is the working definition of a filibuster. And yet GOP leaders have had the temerity to argue that (1) they didn’t filibuster the defense bill and (2) the Democrats are behind all the delays. This isn’t spin — it’s lying. From Roll Call:
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) accused Republicans of attempting to filibuster the Defense bill, which includes funding for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an effort to block work on the health care bill. [...]
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and other Republicans, however, sought to place the blame for the funding delay on Democrats, accusing them of dragging their feet in bringing the bill to the floor and arguing they are prepared to pass the bill.
“I find it rather curious that our colleague … is accusing Republicans of filibustering this Defense appropriations bill. Republicans don’t control the Senate or the House. The House just passed this bill Wednesday. Now, it could have been passed in October or September,” Kyl said, adding that, “We always vote for the Defense appropriations bill.”
Moments later, Kyl refused an attempt to pass the defense bill immediately by unanimous consent. Hours later, he voted against bringing the Defense bill to a final vote.
In a perfect world, the Republicans voting with Kyl would be forced to explain why they sought to kill the bill providing troop funding in the middle of two wars.