Will the Media Play Harry Reid's Game?

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) issued a statement this afternoon explaining Democrats’ rationale for opposing the Defense Appropriations Conference Report, which includes a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Clearly, Reid is trying to shape the issue for tonight’s evening news. He doesn’t want his party portrayed as one that just blocked funding for American soldiers, so he resorts to finger-pointing.

“Mr. President, the Senate is a body of process and order. We have rules. These rules separate us from the House of Representatives, which is subject to the partisan desires of the Majority.  For 200 years, through Democratic Majorities and Republican Majorities, the Senate has lived by these rules. But twice this year, once this Spring and now today, the Republican Majority has shown us how far they are willing to go outside the rules to get what they want.

“The first attempt to flex their muscle, the Nuclear Option, was stopped when courageous Senators from both sides of the aisle stood against it.  We need to see that same bi-partisan courage today. Republicans are threatening to break the rules again, but this time, they’re holding the United State Military hostage to do it.

“First, there is Senator Stevens’ intention to violate Rule 28 in order to pass ANWR. The Senator knows he lacks the votes to get this boon for special interest passed the right way, so he’s going to break the rules to jam it through.

“Then, there’s the drug immunity provision, another gift to special interests. The legislation wasn’t included in either the House or Senate versions of the Defense Appropriations bill, and Conferees were given written assurances that it wouldn’t appear in the Conference Report. Yet here it is. Why? Because House and Senate leaders, in the middle of the night, insisted that rules be broken to include it.

“This process is not fair to our troops, to the American people or to the Senate. It’s time we said no to the abuse of power, no to those who seek to abuse the rules in the name of special interests and no to turning the Senate into the House of Representatives.  We have rules for a reason. These rules serve the Majority and the Minority, and they should not be broken on behalf of special interests. That’s why I am voting against cloture today.

“Now I know that some in the Majority have threatened all sorts of things if cloture isn’t agreed to, but thankfully, we have Senator Stevens own words to tell us what will happen.  Here’s what Senator Stevens, the Bill Manager, told the Fairbanks Daily-Miner on Sunday:  ‘If a Senate filibuster over ANWR stops the defense bill, the legislation can be quickly modified and passed so there is no impact on the military’s finances.’   He went on to directly say, ‘if we lose, then we’ll reconstitute the conference and ANWR will be out.’   It’s that simple. Senator Stevens is a man of his word, as he just said on the Floor, and he has said if we don’t get cloture, the bill goes back to Conference, ANWR gets taken out and we can quickly pass the bill.

“All of us stand with our troops and all of us also want to do what is right for the Senate. That is why our best course of action is to vote "no" on cloture and follow the roadmap Senator Stevens has provided.”