An Open Letter to Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)

Dear Senator Reid, or more precisely, Dear Senate Majority Leader Reid,

Since this is an open letter I will, by necessity, include several definitions and explanations of Senate rules. There are many arcane procedures used by the Senate that complicates our understanding of how things get done or more importantly how things don’t get done in the Senate.

The filibuster is among the most misunderstood of the Senate procedures due to the modern changes in Senate rules regarding the filibuster. Unlike the prior Senate rules (before 1975) a filibuster required a senator to get up and talk until all had had enough (we all remember Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), the current rules allow a filibustering party of 41 Senators to announce an intent to filibuster and delay voting on a bill without actually getting up and stopping proceedings by holding the floor endlessly. Discussion and voting on the measure being filibustered stops while other Senate business continues. A “Pseudo-Filibuster”! It takes 60 Senators to impose cloture; an end to the filibuster (that hasn’t actually happened) and then discussion on the bill can resume. Since it is difficult and rare to get 60 senators to concur, cloture usually cannot be reached and that particular measure would effectively be finished for the session.

After the Democrats obtained a (slim) majority in the Senate in the 2006 elections, the Republicans of the 110th Congress (2007-2008) filibustered more times than any Senate session in American history – more than 90 times. They have turned a seldom used and extreme measure into a regular political tactic. With that they have become what they used to condemn the Democrats of being – obstructionist. Most Americans don’t know that the Republicans held up so much Senate business with their pseudo-filibusters. The mainstream media did not report that the Republicans were obstructing the proceedings. Consequently, the public just assumed that the Democrats were simply incapable of accomplishing any meaningful legislation in the Senate. We have often heard the phrase “do-nothing Senate” to describe the 110th congress.

However, Senate rules allow the Senate Majority Leader to insist that the parties actually get up and speak as in an old-fashioned filibuster. This, Senator Reid, you have never done. And there lies the problem.
Things should be a bit different now that the Democrats have a larger majority in the House and Senate (although not a filibuster-proof majority) and we have a Democratic president. Now the Republicans are complaining of the Democrats’ and Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. To listen to the Republicans grumble about a lack of bipartisanship is almost laughable.

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When they had the power in Congress and the White House, they had no time or use for bipartisanship. In fact, the Congressional Republicans treated the Democrats with absolute disdain and total disrespect. They certainly did not put a polite moderate like you in charge. They chose Senator Bill Frist as their Majority Leader – among the most partisan and caustic Senate leader in history. When they ran the Senate they actually threatened to change the filibuster rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering. They called it the “Nuclear Option”.

Senator Reid, your lack of engagement against the Republicans has made you look weak and by extension you have made all Democrats look weak. You have the power to make the Republicans flinch. When they threaten to filibuster, make them get up and speak for days on end. Expose them for the selfish, power-hungry corporatists they are. To paraphrase Senator John McCain, make them famous so that people know their names – and their deeds.

Democrats should never appear weak to the other side. Democrats are not weak – we have the better arguments, we have the better proposals, we have the better ideas and the better leaders to fix this country. Senator Reid, you can and should make us proud of the accomplishments the Democratically controlled Senate can achieve. Now, more than ever, we need courageous and resolute leadership. We’re counting on you.

Eric Ekstrand,
Eagle Rock, CA

Published by the LA Progressive on February 3, 2009
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Comments

  1. Here’s the conversation that I’d like Harry Reid to have with Blue Dog Dems:
    “Senator, I understand that you need to represent the folks back home who elected you. I want to assure you that I will respect your vote on the merits of any bill that we vote on here in the Senate. However, we have other kinds of votes here in the senate that aren’t on the merits of the bills. These are procedural votes, in particular we have votes to start and end filibusters. These are not votes on the merits of proposed legislation. These are votes which can deny yourself and other members of this body the right to vote on the merits of certain issues.
    Let me make this perfectly clear – votes on procedural matters are a TEAM sport – and we are all Democrats when it comes to these votes. You were elected as a Democrat and you are expected to act like a Democrat when it comes to procedural votes.
    So, here’s the deal. I expect you to support the positions of the Democratic team when it comes to procedural votes. And, if you aren’t part of the Democratic team on these matters, you can expect me to wield the full power of my position to sanction you for your failure to cooperate. For example, you may find that you are being assigned a different location for your office. You should also expect some very different committee and seniority positions, and so forth. Do I make myself clear?
    I appreciate this opportunity to have spoken with you. Oh, and before you leave, Rahm Emmanuel is in the next room and he would like to have a little discussion about how the President will or will not be supporting your re-election campaign…”
    .-= John Barta´s last blog ..Health Care Lies =-.

  2. Luke Easter says:

    LaVena Lynn Johnson & Jamie Leigh Jones (Military Cover-Up?)

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all,
    Another name is slammed into a brick wall,
    LaVena Johnson an Army Private First Class,
    Is she the first? Certainly this PFC isn’t the last.

    Is it any wonder Osama Bin Laden can’t be found?
    With a criminal loose in our camp running around,
    Destroying evidence, burning bodies, again & again,
    Calling themselves soldiers, claiming they are men.

    What a shame when the real enemy is on the same side,
    Behind the color of camaraderie these cowards hide,
    Punched in the face, loose teeth, she was only 5 feet 1,
    The Army claims its suicide, that’s all, over and done.

    How many before shooting themselves bust their own lip,
    Severe enough to the point it needs more than one stitch,
    Surprisingly they didn’t say she tried to saw herself in half,
    Which lie would be easier to swallow? You do the math.

    So, how did that chemical burn get on her private parts?
    Oh yeah, maybe a tattoo, some kind of new wave art,
    Why would someone waste time getting rid of DNA?
    Just maybe without detection they’re free to get away.

    Being right handed, she shot herself in the left side of the head,
    Moved her body from 1 place to another “after” she was dead,
    From the size of the exit wound when the trigger was released,
    There was no breath left because she was immediately deceased.

    The U.S. Army actually tried lying, hooray for her dad,
    He gave that crap the smell test and oh did it smell bad,
    7/19/05 her dead body found in a contractor’s tent, KBR,
    Broken nose, black eye, shot in the head and body scars.

    Military personnel or civilians aren’t we on the same side?
    Who is the American Government protecting, why that lie?
    Had to be someone with pull to get her alone, you’d think,
    I don’t have to be standing next to skunk to know it stinks.

    Where’s is the ACLU, what happened to the mighty NAACP?
    She could not have been more violated, do you not agree?
    A 19-year-old honor student should be shown more respect,
    But, this is how she’s being treated. Hey! What the heck?

    Can’t call it racial because all women are treated the same,
    Even academies and bases in the states there is this claim,
    We are truly near the end of days soon God will work it out,
    Vengeance will certainly be more than a punch in the mouth.

    The Uniform Code Of Military Justice aka the U.C.M.J.,
    But, where is this promise for LaVena, her assailant got away,
    Judging by the condition of her remains, she put up a fight,
    Now John and Linda Johnson are paving the road to right.

    Funny thing though, seems they have a roadblock in Iraq,
    It’s from the U.S. Army, who supposedly has their back,
    The saying, “with friends like these who needs enemies?”
    Guess the Army thinks first the perpetrator said, “please?”

    Here’s a little something to me that is simply down right scary,
    The hole in her head was from a pistol, which she did not carry,
    Oh yeah, if you think that’s something how does this fact sound?
    The fatal bullet that went through her head was never even found.

    If there ever was this kind of incompetence in World War II,
    Adolph Hitler or his off spring would be telling us what to do,
    Oops, I don’t mean us because there’d be no Blacks or Jews,
    And only if the Furor liked Mexican food maybe a Hispanic or 2.

    Whomever, wherever, whatever, an injustice did occur,
    We can’t make it right for others without justice for her,
    Hey, White House, the most powerful office in the world,
    Do you have the gonads to speak out for this Johnson girl?

    A petition was signed that is over twelve thousand strong,
    The Army closed the case anyway saying nothing’s wrong,
    Nothing like U.S. Intelligence, it’s the reason for the attack,
    If they hadn’t been storing WMD’s we wouldn’t be in Iraq.

    I saw something on the Internet much sadder than sad,
    Her mom distraught, shedding tears, clutching her dad,
    Soldiers carrying LaVena’s body almost made me mad,
    Draped over her lifeless casket was an American flag.

    Apparently the stars and stripes blows in two directions,
    There is one for neglect, another for promised protection,
    As it laid over her body on that particular sun filled day,
    Was it 1 of protection or 1 allowing the perp to get away?

    Beware this incident is not about colors, Black or White,
    Remember it’s a statement in the arena of wrong vs. right,
    I wonder if her recruiter bothered to make LaVena aware,
    The same injustice suffered here is also allowed over there.

    And here’s a timeless saying, which is entering my mind,
    There’s even a movie with the title, “Behind Enemy Lines,”
    Now that the light is shining on a lie that 3 years rang true,
    Who will step in & accomplish what the enemy refused to do?

    For every ranking Army official who signed off on this case,
    Nothing less than a court martial is what each 1 should face,
    Upon their conviction exactly where should they have to go?
    What about life in a cell behind barb wire fences at Gitmo.

    BTW, this isn’t the end of this kind story, not in the least,
    The sad tale of a 21 year old from Texas, PFC Tina Priest,
    After her “suicide” another soldier through his own neglect,
    Guilty! Being in the quarters of a member of the opposite sex.

    Like priest who joined the church to freely molest little boys,
    Sexual predators join the armed forces for their perverted joys,
    The biggest question still remains will something ever be done?
    Wining the internal war protecting our daughters from our sons.

    Update! From March 15,2009 here is some very disturbing news,
    This is from a Pentagon Report and it’s disturbingly so very true,
    There’s an 8% jump from sexual assaults reported last year 2008,
    Rising to 26% in war zones while 89% of the culprits get to skate.

    Yes, because only 11% of reported cases will ever make it to a trial,
    How many are actually convicted? The DOD doesn’t know (smile,)
    So, exactly what are these women doing after shedding their tears?
    Sadly, they are looking at the other side & at their own through fear.

    LaVena,7/19/2009 is the 4-year anniversary of your death,
    And the case is still unsolved? Well, don’t not hold your breath,
    Michael Jackson dies, everybody who is anybody shows,
    Savagely beaten, raped, murdered and still nobody knows?

    Oops! I’m very sorry, I meant to say that “they” are aware,
    In actuality the problem is that “they” obviously don’t care,
    Those who stood up for justice with Jena 6 where are “they?”
    Hey! Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson what do you have to say?

    Or any so-called Black Leader for that matter, what’s going on?
    Television, radio, Internet, news media, your voice is so strong,
    Even the SPCA when it came to Michael Vick, raised holy hell,
    But the true story of LaVena Johnson, no one has the guts to tell?

    LaVena Lynn Johnson your homicide’s over 48 months old,
    Almost from day one the Army says your case is closed,
    Claiming you alone pulled the trigger, oh how very bold,
    I wonder, just maybe, is Fort Knox filled with fool’s gold?

    During this time lots of turmoil from an incident in Cambridge, Mass.,
    A White cop, Black Harvard professor, was it racial or is about class?
    Many are so upset check this out, some are finding it hard to sleep,
    And the injustice to you dear sister? That’s right not a single peep.

    There were no lives lost, no blood shed, only pride & feelings hurt,
    While LaVena Lynn quietly lies impervious under six feet of dirt,
    There was even intervention by The President Of The United States,
    Our innocent young soldier, how much longer will you have to wait?

    The question is, what course are either of these fellows going to pursue?
    Legal action with negative results, like your parents have tried for you?
    I wonder what non-life threatening issues will make the headlines next?
    Oh yeah! The Taco Bell dog died and it’s big news, but you they forget.

    And although yours is the most heinous again you are not alone,
    Google & ponder the case of KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones,
    Left alive it’s another unbelievable story, heartbreaking & intense,
    Doctors took photos, a rape kit, however security lost the evidence.

    Offered a drink by co-workers, a couple of sips, out like a light,
    Repeatedly penetrated back and front, unable to put up a fight,
    Bam! Headache! She awakened with blood all over her thighs,
    A victim screaming out for justice & no one answered her cries.

    Called her father, who called his congressman, everyone appalled,
    More calls, inquiries, like PFC Johnson; her case too has stalled,
    There’s a term for negative situations like this; it’s the X-factor,
    Not only the Army to blame but what about the KBR Contractor?

    These two ladies had more in common than just prey on the menu,
    Safe under the guise of government protection at their Iraqi venue,
    Alien or resident, civilian or military, rape & murder is still a crime,
    Death penalty, life without parole, yet the victims are doing the time.

    Hiding something doesn’t make it go away but exposing it will,
    Why all the Department Of Defense & Halliburton cover-up still?
    Could these rape and murder claims be really false or just maybe?
    Is the connection to strong to former Vice President Dick Cheney?

    After all he was the head of the company before being picked as VP,
    His old conglomerate makes billions in government deals overseas,
    Especially due to the invasion of what is now good old war torn Iraq,
    What’s more important, making money or unmasking sexual attacks?

    Obviously they have already made their choice it is real easy to see,
    To hell with mental and physical abuse let’s make even more money,
    Rape, murder, cover-up, whatever we need to remember the bottom line,
    This is pure and simple about greed, it will continue until the end of time.

    “The Silent Truth” can be found at http://www.Midtownfilms.com,
    Director Joan Brooker-Marks with LaVena’s dad and mom,
    A documentary as finally the truth will be made known to all,
    Seeking to bring you justice, a few have answered the call.

    I sincerely urge everyone reading this to tell your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, teachers, counselors, the principle, doctors, nurses, mechanics, acquaintances, to notify city council, the mayor, congressional district, state senator, governor, DOD, the white house, favorite radio, television station, newspapers and demand this investigation be reopened. Justice will never be done for all sexually assaulted victims in the military male & female, until it’s done for one. Thank you!

  3. Agreed.

    Reid is not getting the message. We have EIGHTEEN more Senators than the Repubs, (soon to be 19). That means somethings. America chose us to be in charge for the next 2 years at least.

  4. With all the concessions the Democratic majority is making to the Republican minority in this “stimulus bill,” which has made it a “tax cut bill,” I’m not sure the Democrats need Reid’s help looking weak. I agree with you on the laughable cries for bipartisanship/centrism – shorthand for catering to the extreme positions of the right.

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