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[From the Frog Pond]

If you have ever watched World Cup soccer (better known as football) you've seen the following.  When a player is injured and unable to run up and down the field, the other team will not press their advantage but will kick the ball out of bounds, granting an opportunity for the injured player to be tended to and replaced.  It's called sportsmanship.  In American sports you will occasionally see the same thing happen in basketball and even ice hockey.  


In politics we sometimes have something similar happen.  Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota suffered cerebral bleeding in December 2006 and has suffered through a long recovery.  Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been hospitalized more than once in this congress with infections and other maladies.  And Sen. Edward Kennedy was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent intrusive brain surgery.  All of these cases left the Democrats short of their normal 51-49 advantage in the Senate chamber.  The Republicans have generally been sportsmanlike in not pressing any advantage from momentary illnesses of Democratic members.  That changed today.

Today we had a vote to invoke cloture (cut off debate and move to a vote) on the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.  The vote required 60 members to approve cloture and we only gained 58.  But, if you look at the vote, we actually had 59, just one short of the necessary number.  For procedural reasons, Majority Leader Harry Reid has to change his vote from 'aye' to 'nay' in order to have standing to reintroduce the vote at a later time.  Including Harry Reid's 'aye' vote, the Medicare Act actually garnered 59 votes.  There were two people that did not vote.  John McCain did not vote because, presumably, he is on the campaign trail.  The other senator that didn't vote was Teddy Kennedy.  And he didn't vote because he is recovering from brain surgery.

In a sportsmanlike world, one Republican, any Republican, would have cast a vote for cloture in recognition that the only reason the cloture vote was failing was because Teddy Kennedy was unavailable to vote.  But they didn't do it.  They pressed their advantage.  

I think that is contemptible.

Originally posted to on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 08:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Democrats Wouldn't Have Done It (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We wouldn't toss up a vote out of sportsmanship if we were adamently opposed to a bill.  Nor should we.  

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 08:58:41 PM PDT

    •  I disagree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, soms

      especially because the votes are not going to change.  

      •  You should be able to find an example (0+ / 0-)

        of where a Democrat did just that then. I mean, Republican Senators get sick too.

        I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

        by incertus on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 09:05:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have no doubt (0+ / 0-)

          that there are examples in this very Congress of Republicans having some respect.

          •  That's not the point (0+ / 0-)

            You're saying that Congressional Republicans should be held to a particular standard of conduct. The presumption is that Democrats would do the same thing if the tables were turned. If that's the case, then you should be able to list at least one case when Congressional Democrats did just that. Otherwise it seems to me that you're jumping down Republicans' throats for something that Democrats, were the tables turned, would do themselves. And frankly, if the Democrats were in that situation and didn't pull just that trick, I would be pissed beyond belief.

            But if you're going to call the Republicans out, then it seems to me you at least need to show a counter-example of said behavior by the Democrats.

            There are plenty of things to go after the Republicans for. This isn't one of them.

            I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

            by incertus on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 09:43:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Believe it or not (0+ / 0-)

              these things don't come up very often.  Sometime in the last 100 years you might be able to find an example of the Democrats having the ability to block legislation but passing it up because a Republican is recovering from brain surgery.  However, I bet you can't find such an example.

              •  Umm, I don't have to (0+ / 0-)

                I'm not the one who made a ridiculous claim.

                You're the one calling out Republicans for what seems like a fairly innocuous move. If you're pushing for legislation, it's your party's job to get the votes you need. The opposition has no responsibility to help you out. That's why they're the opposition.

                Like I said--there's plenty of reasons to go after Republican Senators. This isn't one of them.

                I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

                by incertus on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 10:21:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

    they are just such an example to us all, aren't they?

    I hope our crew doesn't learn to act like them.

  •  umm, fix your tag? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't think you meant "Edward Kenney" . . .

  •  Wheel in Kennedy to vote on this bill (3+ / 0-)

    if it is that important.

    In 1964, California Senator Clair Engle was dying from brain cancer, but still voted for the Civil Rights Act.  

    Engle was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1958 and began serving in 1959. He fell victim to brain cancer in 1963, however, which left him partially paralyzed, and he missed several Congressional sessions in 1963 and 1964.

    On June 10, 1964, during the roll call for the historic, successful effort to break the filibuster on what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when the clerk reached "Mr. Engle," there was no reply. The tumor had robbed Engle of his ability to speak. Slowly lifting a crippled arm, he pointed to his eye, thereby signaling his affirmative vote ("aye").[1] The cloture vote was 71-29, four votes more than the two-thirds majority required to cut off filibuster. [2]. Nine days later the Senate approved the act itself.

    Engle died in Washington, D.C. a month and a half later, aged 52.

    John McCain's Something for Everyone Plan: Military draft for youth, SS benefit cuts for elderly, Middle Class destruction, stock market plunge for wealthy.

    by IhateBush on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 09:03:04 PM PDT

  •  Nope (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBJ, jlms qkw

    In a sportsmanlike world, one Republican, any Republican, would have cast a vote for cloture in recognition that the only reason the cloture vote was failing was because Teddy Kennedy was unavailable to vote.

    No, they wouldn't have. The process you're talking about is called "pairing," and it's pretty well-established. If someone is ill, or can't make a vote for a good reason (or doesn't want to), they'll make a deal with a Republican counterpart that they won't show up to vote either. Democrats often do this with Arlen Spector when he's in the hospital.

    Quoth Wikipedia:

    In the United States Senate and House of representatives, a live pair is an informal voluntary agreement between Members, not specifically authorized or recognized by House or Senate rules. Live pairs are agreements which Members employ to nullify the effect of absences on the outcome of recorded votes. If a Member expects to be absent for a vote, he or she may "pair off" with another Member who will be present and who would vote on the other side of the question, but who agrees not to vote. The Member in attendance states that he or she has a live pair, announces how each of the paired Members would have voted, and then votes "present." In this way, the other Member can be absent without affecting the outcome of the vote. Because pairs are informal and unofficial arrangements, they are not counted in vote totals; however paired Members' positions do appear in the Congressional Record.

    There is, however, little precedent for a member of the opposing party switching their vote for their paired member. If something is important enough, they can roll someone in with an IV line. McCain stayed away because he was campaigning, Teddy stayed away convalescing, and there was an even pairing there.

    Republicans do a lot of contemptible things in the Senate - I just don't think this is one.

    AT&T offers exciting work for recent graduates in computer science. Pick up the phone, call your mom, and ask for an application.

    by Scipio on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 09:25:45 PM PDT

  •  McCain and Kennedy cancelled each other out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, paige

    You are correct that politics is not sportsmanlike, but your analysis is a little too pat.

    Some Senators voted for cloture knowing that it would not pass.  Would Dole and Coleman and the other Republicans like Roberts (KS) have voted in favor of it if it would have tilted the vote?  

    I guarantee the right number would have voted No to keep the balance right.  They can count and they wanted to get as many vulnerable Rs on the safe side of the vote without actually getting to 60.  

    At least Kennedy had a real excuse for not showing up.  John McCain simply skipped a tough vote - with Bush and his party on one side and groups like AARP and AMA on the other.  He shouldn't get a pass from you or anyone else just because he says he was "campaigning".  

    •  McCain's vote (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfern, bronte17, annetteboardman

      doesn't matter.  He would have been an irrelevant vote against cloture.

      •  really? (0+ / 0-)

        maybe he would have been the gentleman your whole diary was about?

        (ha - just kidding.  not likely)

        but his vote does matter in that they were one vote short and McCain didn't vote.  I'm a little surprised at you - Dems will and should seize on this opportunity to highlight the fact he was out and make him say how he would have voted.  

        He's in a tough spot - this was one vote short and he was the one vote.  Docs and Medicare recipients will want to know what he would have done.

        Don't just take my word for it, here's today's New York Times:

        Senate Democrats came within one vote on Thursday night of pushing forward with a bill to prevent a 10 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors, which will take effect next month without legislative action. And the only senators missing were John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is ill.

        And Mr. McCain’s absence made it likely that Democrats would seek to hold him at least partly responsible for the outcome.

    •  Absolutely on target .... (0+ / 0-)

      An citing a soccer example? What the heck is up with that .... is Obama running for office is France or something? In AMERICAN sports like, say, football, you attack a weakness not put players on the sidelines to even things out. This is too much like restrictor-plate NASCAR rules that noone likes or understands for me.

  •  Thanks for the diary (0+ / 0-)

    Republicans proved back in the early 1990s that they have no class. Nothing has changed since then.

    Old Man - the best McCain attack blog on the web!

    by existenz on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 09:42:14 PM PDT

  •  There was me thinking this was going to be about (0+ / 0-)


    I shoulda known better.

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