Filibuster to End the War
It Only Takes 41 Senate Votes to End the War.
Republicans Show the Way.
By John V. Walsh
02/09/07 "Counterpunch" --- - We hear over and over
again that it "takes 60 votes to get something serious
done in the Senate." That is a lot of malarkey. It takes
only one senator to begin a filibuster against any bill.
And then it takes only 41 votes to uphold that
filibuster and prevent any proposed law from coming to
Thus, the present authorization for defense funding in
the coming fiscal year can be stopped cold if it
contains funds for the war on Iraq. And this can be done
by just one courageous Senator, backed by 40 colleagues.
Let me propose the following scenario. Just one Senator,
Ted Kennedy or Russ Feingold or Robert Byrd, arises in
the Senate and declares that he will filibuster the
present defense authorization bill if it contains funds
for the war on Iraq or Iran. That bill is then dead
unless there are 60 votes (3/5 of the 100 Senators) to
end the debate, i.e., to invoke cloture. That is it.
Bush no longer has the funds to prosecute the war. He
has to come back with a funding bill acceptable to the
At the same time the filibustering Senator could put
forth a resolution similar to Congressman McGovern's in
the House, which is aptly named "The Safe and Orderly
Withdrawal Act." It provides funds to ensure the
withdrawal of U.S, forces from Iraq in a way that
guarantees their safety, and no other funding for the
war. If the opponents of our hypothetical, courageous
Senator wish to oppose such legislation, let them go on
record in so doing. They are then on record as refusing
funds to bring the troops safely home.
The Republicans have shown in their very first weeks in
opposition that they have the ovaries to do what the
Democrats will not. Today (February, 5) they raised 49
votes in the Senate to prevent a relatively harmless
non-binding resolution against Bush's so-called "surge."
These votes included Democrats Joseph Lieberman and
Henry Reid, the Senate majority leader! (1)
Right now there are 18 sitting Senators who voted
against the war in 2002. And there are 13 more who voted
for the war and now say they regret it. That comes to 31
nominally antiwar Senators.(2) In addition there are 4
new Senators, Barak Obama among them, who claim to be
against the war. That brings the count to 35 of the
necessary 41, leaving only 6 more needed. And the
Democrats now have 51 seats, with at least one or two
Republican antiwar Senators to boot. So it would take
only 41 out of 51 who claim to be against the war to
actually end the war. If they are not lying about their
anti-war position, let them stand up and be counted. For
example, Hillary Clinton, who is not among those who
regret their vote in 2002, were to be one of a handful
who refused to vote for cloture, what would happen to
her chances in 2008? Let her and others who claim to be
against the war go on record for or against the
As Charlie Richardson and others of Military Families
Speak Out said so eloquently in UFPJ's recent lobbying
effort at the Capitol, Congressmen cannot be against the
war and for its funding. If the Democrats continue to
fund the war, then they own it. It is their war as well
Bush's. (And to that I would add that of course it has
been the Democrats' war as well as Bush's all along.
Many voted for it in October, 2002, when they controlled
the Senate, for the sake of their presidential ambitions
or because they faced a tough re-election campaign.)
What are the odds that even a handful of Senators will
begin a filibuster against the war? Pretty minimal, I
fear, given the power of AIPAC and other pro-war forces
within the Democratic Party. But the Senators should be
pressured intensely, no holds barred, to do so anyway.
We should have a version of the Occupation Project, for
example, to target our Senators to join a filibuster and
commit to upholding it by voting against cloture. Acts
of non-violent civil disobedience at local Senate
offices will bring attention to their position--and to
their hypocrisy if they claim to be against the war but
refuse to vote that way. Perhaps some Senators will give
in to pressure if they realize that their re-election is
at stake. And we are now at a moment of societal
upheaval over the war, with splits among the ruling
class, one faction of which is furious with the neocons
for creating this disaster. So anything can happen. But
even if the Senators refuse, we shall know where
everyone stands. And if the Democratic Senators fail to
do the bidding of the people, it helps the antiwar
movement to know that we must look beyond the Democratic
Party for a true champion of peace in '08 and beyond.
John V. Walsh can be reached at
email@example.com. He recommends Alexander
along some of the same lines
It is also interesting the John McCain abstained on this
vote, no doubt fearing for his presidential ambitions.
Nor did Martinez (R) or Democrats Landrieu or Johnson
vote. Unfortunately the purportedly anti-war Chuck Hagel
voted for cloture. Susan Collins (R) voted with the
Democrats against cloture, knowing a vote on the other
side could cost her re-election in Maine.