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June 15, 2007

Great Moments In Disingenous Cloture Votes

Ah, when the internets were young, I had this argument many a time with liberals. And, I confess, I learned something from them -- an actual fact, a true fact, not just something they were making up. They were (largely) right: I was technically right, but in a more real way wrong.

The argument went like this. I charged, correctly, that a larger ratio (almost all of them, in fact) of Republicans had voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act than Democrats did (a minority in fact).

Liberals had two responses: 1, of course, that was a different time, when Dixiecrats were in power in the south. But, more importantly for the present debate, they countered 2, while many Democrats had voted against the Civil Rights Act itself, most had voted in favor of cloture on debate in the Senate, which was actually the more important vote, because they knew, by voting for cloture, enough Republicans (nearly all of them) and enough progressive-minded Democrats would be enough to guarantee the Civil Rights Act passage.

The real vote, they pressed, was the cloture vote, and many Democrats had voted for that.

This defense is also offered, IIRC, on behalf of Barry Goldwater, who had voted against the bill itself (in a pander to Dixiecrat voters) but who had done the right thing as far as cloture.

From Wikipedia:

Although majorities in both parties voted for the bill, there were notable exceptions. Republican senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona voted against the bill, remarking, "You can't legislate morality." Most Democrats from the Southern states opposed the bill, including Senators Albert Gore Sr. (D-TN), J. William Fulbright (D-AR), and Robert Byrd (D-WV). Goldwater went on to secure his party's nomination for the presidency, and in the ensuing election, Goldwater won only Arizona and five of the Deep South states, two of which had not voted Republican since the disputed presidential election of 1876.

Al Gore's father voted against the bill! we conservatives yelled.

But he voted in favor of cloture, the liberals parried, knowing full well doing so guaranteed its passage.

I mention this not to liken the important Civil Rights Act to the current piece-of-shit under consideration, but simply to note this is a famous case of voting-for-cloture-being-effectively-a-vote-for-the-bill-itself, with the actual vote on the bill being a rather secondary consideration, a vote which may provide some political cover or insulation on the issue, but which, as a substantive matter, is entirely meaningless.

A vote in favor of cloture on amensty-without-security is a vote for the bill itself; it creates a fait accompli. There is no reasonable chance that 50 or more Senators will vote agains the actual bill -- the establishment wants it, and what the establishment wants, the establishment gets.

The only chance of defeating this bill is by requiring a supermarjority of Senators to vote for cloture.

This isn't 1964 anymore. The public is now a bit more informed than it once was, and a bit more canny about cynical procedural maneuverings and disingenuous political posturings.

We know what a vote in favor of cloture means -- and while some Americans may not, we're not going to be keeping secrets on that score. If not everyone knows right now what a vote for cloture means, trust us, the problematic talk-radio hosts and bloggers and blog-readers will let everyone concerned about this issue know the real story -- before Congress has time to "deal with that problem" of an informed citizenry.

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posted by Ace at 04:58 PM

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