UPDATE: Dems broke the filibuster at 2 a.m. EST.
You know, I'm beginning to wonder if the refusal to operate in good faith isn't a form of official malfeasance. Because voters should impeach these senators for simply refusing to do their jobs - like voting for this bill, which funds their unemployment benefits:
Senate Republicans said Thursday that they would try to filibuster a massive Pentagon bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unusual move that several acknowledged was an effort to delay President Obama's health-care legislation.
Late into the night, Democrats emerged from a huddle confident that they would muster the 60 votes needed to thwart the GOP effort at blocking the military spending bill. An antiwar liberal said he would set aside his reservations and support choking off the filibuster to keep the chamber on a timeline of holding a final health-care vote before Christmas. The vote on the defense spending bill was to occur after 1 a.m. Friday, too late for this edition.
The maneuvering came as Democrats were still trying to round up a 60th vote on the health-care legislation. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the last holdout in the Democratic caucus and the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by White House officials, rejected an abortion compromise aimed at bringing him on board. Nelson has said he would not support the package unless it explicitly bars the use of federal money for abortion services.
If Nelson's support can be secured over the weekend, Democrats are hopeful that they will be able to begin clearing the parliamentary hurdles that would allow final passage of their version of the legislation by Christmas Eve. That would meet their self-imposed deadline to pass the measure and begin negotiating with House Democrats to craft a final version to send to the president.
Republicans have said their goal is to block the bill and force Senate Democrats to go home and face their constituents, hoping for some supporters of the measure to return after New Year's too fearful to back the legislation.
If the filibuster on the $626 billion defense bill succeeded, Democrats would have to scramble to find a way to fund the military operations, because a stopgap funding measure will expire at midnight Friday. Such an effort might have disrupted the very tight timeline on health care.
Republicans have provided the backbone of support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have praised Obama's troop increase in Afghanistan, so the plan to oppose defense spending Friday morning put them in an unusual position. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cited the thousands of earmarks in the bill in explaining his opposition, and others cited factors not related to health care.
But Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) was blunt in explaining his support of a filibuster. "I don't want health care," said Brownback, a member of the Appropriations Committee, which crafted the Pentagon funding bill.
[...] Democrats were furious. They believed they had a deal with Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, but by Thursday night Cochran was saying he was unsure how he would vote.
UPDATE: Dan Pfeiffer at the White House blog makes the following acute observation:
The depth of the hypocrisy involved is stunning. Back in 2007, when Congress was debating how to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close, many of these same folks launched blistering accusations about Democrats' commitment to our troops. Here are just a few of the things they said:
"Playing politics with the critical funding that our troops need now is political theater of the worst kind." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Press Release, 4/26/07]
"We have plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to have political debates... but it’s just unconscionable to me to tie the hands of the very troops that we all say we support." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Transcript, Senate Republican News Briefing, 4/10/07]
"Every day we don’t fund our troops is a day their ability to fight this war is weakened." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Press Release, 3/31/07]
"No way to treat the troops, and it is entirely inconsistent with [Senators’] expressions of support for the troops." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Congressional Record, 10/4/07]
"I don't understand this attitude of, ‘We can play with; we can risk the lives of these troops by waiting until the last possible minute to get the funding to them." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [FOX News Transcript, 4/10/07]
"Our obligation to those troops must transcend politics." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [Press Release, 11/8/07]
Now though, as we debate not foreign policy but health care, the Department of Defense funding can wait? Incredible.