I just concluded an interview with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist which will play in the first hour. I am left with the sinking feeling that the country will be lucky if it gets one or two more judges confirmed before next Friday’s recess, and with the impression that John McCain and Lindsey Graham have killed the military tribunals legislation via their rejection of the second effort by the White House to put forward a bill. Finally, it sounded as though the Majority Leader expects the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee to block the legislation confirming the president’s authority to order NSA surveillance of al Qaeda contacting its operatives in the United States without a warrant.
When I pressed the Majority Leader on the need to keep the Senate in session as long as it takes to get its critical work done, he demurred, and thought it was both difficult to do, and also not useful to the elections when senators need to be home drawing contrasts between themselves and their opponents. I pointed out that the easiest way to draw contrasts is while a divided Senate is in session arguing over the most crucial issues of the day. I don’t believe I persuaded the senator.
Given that the national security is involved, the Senate and House should not adjourn without bills on both the tribunals and the NSA program, even if it cuts into campaign season. The additional time will allow the judicial nominees to receive their votes as well.
Voice your opinions to the Majority Leader. Phone: (202) 224-3344 E-Mail Senator Frist’s PAC here.
And call Senators McCain and Graham and ask them to end their obstruction.
Senator McCain: Phone: (202) 224-2235 E-mail here.
Senator Graham: Phone:(202) 224-5972 E-mail here.
UPDATE: The transcript of my interview with the Majority Leader is here. Here’s the conclusion in which we discuss whether the Senate should stay and finish its work or leave next Friday as it is presently scheudled to do:
HH: Senator Frist, I know we’ve got elections coming up. But given the importance of judges and to tribunals, and the NSA surveillance program, shouldn’t you keep the Senate there as long as it takes?
BF: It gets increasingly hard, Hugh, and I think it’s pretty apparent to people. When you have the other side of the aisle literally obstructing, and although…and you know and understand that although the House is run by primacy of the offense, because it’s a majority rule, the United States Senate is primacy of the defense, and that’s the way it was set up, and those are the rules that there, which means that if the Democrats want to obstruct, they’re going to obstruct. And with that, as we get closer to these elections, I’m seeing more and more obstruction. And people are going to say well, you know, you can fight it. And you can fight it, but you can’t pass it if they continue to obstruct. Thus, these elections become even all the more important, because that contrast between Republicans who want to move America’s agenda forward towards greater prosperity, greater homeland security and American values, versus the Democrats who want to obstruct, it becomes clearer and clearer. And at the ballot box, that decision can be made, and great changes can be accomplished.
HH: Last question, Senator Frist. Doesn’t that contrast become clearer if you keep the Senate there and make them obstruct every day in front of the American people, even if it’s in the election season?
BF: It may…the problem is that I’ve got 34 races right now, and I think it’s important that these candidates be able to get home, be able to show the contrast to their people back at home, because not everybody pays much attention to what’s going on in the United States Senate, to be honest. You do and I do, but your typical person out there is not sitting here following what goes on the floor of the Senate, and so they need to see those nominees, those Senators at home making the case, showing the sharp differences.
HH: Well, thank you, Senator Frist, and I leave you with this. I hope you keep them there, because I think you might have got that one wrong when it comes to the people, but I appreciate your taking the time. Good luck next week.
BF: Okay, Hugh. Thank you. Appreciate it.