Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) issued a loud wake-up call to Republicans Tuesday by suddenly and surprisingly invoking the Senate's little known and rarely used Rule 21, which forced lawmakers to close off the Senate chamber to staffers, the public and reporters, the first time in over 25 years that one party had demanded a closed session without forewarning the other party. Ok Harry, you've got our attention.
Reid's maneuvering is significant for several reasons. First, it was in direct response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s "Phase II" promise back in July 2004 at the conclusion of its first phase, to investigate the administration's possible misuse of intelligence on Iraq's WMD programs in order to present its case for war back in 2002 and 2003. Led by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), the committee staved off the Democrats' demands for accountability by agreeing to fully explore Phase 2 right after the '04 election. But that never happened, and the Bushies have gotten a free pass. Until Tuesday. I'm just wild about Harry!
"Finally, after months and months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we're finally going to be able to have phase two of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq," Reid said about the Democrats' success in forcing Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) to agree to a six-senator bipartisan task force that will report by Nov. 14 on the committee's progress.
Next, what Reid's move also serves to accomplish is to get the Samuel Alito nomination off the headlines and get the Scooter Libby indictment and the Iraq scandal back instead. For once, we've seemed to trump the Bushies, who always manage to have some diversionary news to announce every time they're at their lowest point. This time, we diverted.
And lastly, Tuesday's maneuver signifies that the Democrats are recapturing their mojo; beginning to feel the confidence necessary to stand up to the administration and to the GOP leadership. How ridiculous was it to see Frist, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott and others whining like babies outside the chamber about how the Dem's action was a "slap" to the GOP and to Frist in particular? You want to talk slaps? How about how the Bush administration has slapped every American with its lying about WMD, its rush to war, the 2000 soldiers it killed, and its treasonous cover-up of the truth?
The outcome of the November 14 report is questionable. Ultimately, there may be little the Democrats can do while handcuffed in a Republican-controlled Senate. But more importantly it's a bold message to the GOP that we'll no longer lie down and let it run the country recklessly and without accountability and public scrutiny.
Now let's hope Harry and & Co. can harness the same mojo and aggressiveness when fighting the Alito nomination. There's way too much at stake for America not to. Give 'em hell, Harry!