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Senate Slumber Parties Rock the Floor!

(Originally written on July 19th, 2007)

This is so hilarious and true! I stayed up most of the night while watching C-SPAN2 and witnessed the amusement. And don’t worry…I have my thoughts on the Levin/Reed amendment, which is nothing but a disappointment to supporters of the war and those who want us to leave Iraq (I will explain in a later post). Now I must confess that I stole this article from my girlfriend’s page. It was too good to pass up.

Senate’s Iraq Debate Is More Slumber Than Party

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, July 19, 2007; Page A02

With much fanfare, Democrats invited camera crews to film the arrival of a dozen cots outside the Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon for the all-night Iraq debate.

With rather less fanfare, the cots, unused, were removed early yesterday morning. “They’ve been taking some of them out,” a Capitol Police officer said at 2 a.m. “It was just a photo op.”

So was the debate.

The Democrats had the cameras film the delivery of pizza to the cloakroom. They offered barbecue to Republicans. They gave GOP senators care packages of Colgate toothpaste, a CVS toothbrush and Speed Stick deodorant, all wrapped in a yellow ribbon with a note taunting: “A few supplies for your sleepless night. Help us bring an end to this war.”

If wars could be ended as easily as cavities, the Democrats’ tactics might have produced some results. But everybody knew that opponents of the war didn’t have the 60 votes the GOP required to pass a withdrawal plan; the Democrats fell eight votes short when the decision came yesterday. Rather than work out a compromise, they called the all-night session to focus maximum embarrassment on the Republicans.

A cranky minority party came prepared for a pillow fight.

“I guess we’ll have a lot of fun staying up late, having a Senate slumber party,” groused John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) complained about “phony images of cots, toothpaste and sleepy politicians.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who lamented “all the gags and giggles and gimmicks, the cold pizza and the empty cots,” upbraided his colleagues: “This isn’t Hollywood — this is real life.”

By the second of three “bed checks” — roll-call votes to roust senators from their slumber — there could be no mistaking the Senate floor for Hollywood.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) entered the chamber after midnight with his white hair wildly askew — an apparent victim of bed head. Idaho Republican Mike Crapo’s shirt was partly untucked. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had changed into a black muumuu, while half a dozen men went with a slacks-and-blazer combo. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chewed gum. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) unwrapped a candy bar and dropped crumbs as he ate. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) reclined in his chair. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) blinked as though his eyes were dry. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) yawned.

Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) sat at a desk and rubbed his face, wearing a faraway expression. When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the next bed check would be at 5 a.m., Stevens’s countenance turned sour.

For the first quorum call, at the civilized hour of 8:30 p.m., nine of the 100 senators were missing. By the midnight call, 22 were gone. At the 5:15 a.m. check, 40 were AWOL, including 13 Democrats. Technically, the Senate sergeant-at-arms had the power to seize the absent senators and haul them into the chamber — but nobody wanted to see Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) carried in wearing a nightcap and union suit (more like a white robe…haha).

Democrats tried to keep things interesting, passing a large sign with a flag motif demanding “Let Us Vote.” But the talk on the floor quickly devolved into the sort of repetition associated with a telethon. “It’s time to stop filibustering,” Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) proposed to his weary colleagues. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put his chin on his fist. “None of the benchmarks were met,” Menendez asserted. A GOP aide yawned. “The president took our focus away from Afghanistan.” Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) rubbed his eyes. “That dog won’t hunt.” Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sank into his chair and stroked his brow.

By the time Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) inherited the “Let Us Vote” baton after 1 a.m., there were only three senators in the chamber with the presiding officer, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). McCaskill appeared to be napping until closer inspection revealed that she was studying a BlackBerry in her lap. Coleman stifled a yawn.

With so much of the debate a rehash, some opted to debate the late-night debate itself.

“There’s no need to do the all-night gig,” ventured Christopher Bond (R-Mo.).

But Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) spoke of the value of “watching the night come, watching the sun rise here in Washington.”

Either way, newcomer John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) didn’t mind. As “a trauma surgeon, I’m used to getting up at this hour and working at all unusual hours,” he said just after 5 a.m.

While a few senators kept some semblance of a debate going on the floor, other parts of the Senate apparatus nodded off. The parking lots emptied. The basement cafeteria closed. The elevator boy paced idly. The Senate subways came and went without passengers. The most active figures in the Capitol were the antiwar demonstrators who, after hours outside at a rally, formed a pungent line to enter the public gallery.

In the wee hours, John McCain (R-Ariz.) walked alone toward the Senate chamber. “I’m going to speak all night,” he vowed with determination.

“I’m going to bed,” a reporter told the senator.

“You won’t miss a thing,” McCain assured.


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