Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Surprise! Surprise? Surprise!

Surprise! Front page headline from the New York Times online today: Rice Wins Backing of Panel for Confirmation by Senate .

Not that anyone had any real doubts that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations ("SCFR") would approve her nomination and forward her confirmation to the full Senate. The SCFR has eighteen members, ten of whom are Republican. Approval by committee requires a simple majority; unless two of the Republican members of the SCFR were to break rank and vote against Rice, even a unified Democratic contingent would have been unable to block her nomination.

Surprise? Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who in the past has stood outside his party's line on issues ranging from tax cuts and deficits to the resolution authorizing the military attack to "disarm" Iraq, is the only Republican member of the SCFR potentially independent enough to vote "no".

However, Chafee was just appointed chair of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (chaired in turn by our own Senator James M. [for "(M)an-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"]Inhofe)-- and removed from his previous position as chair of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, Risk and Waste Management; appointed to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (although he appears not to have been assigned to any of its three subcommittees); and continued as a member of the SCFR, chairing the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

One might doubt that Dr. Frist appreciates Chafee's independence, his faltering allegiance to the Republican party -- or Chafee's public non-support of Bush's re-election. In any case, Chafee's resistance would have served only to further distance himself from participation with the majority leadership in the Senate. Count Chafee as "yes".

Surprise! I was hoping that the Democrats would have been at least... obstructive. Instead, the nomination passed out of committee with a vote of sixteen to two. Barbara Boxer found one other senator with sufficient calcium to form a spine. Wait-- it was John Kerry! I had thought that he would vote for Rice after his remarks yesterday at the end of the hearing:

So I hope you will seize that opportunity, and I hope that we have the opportunity to work together.

And I pledge to you that if you reach out, and there are ways to find that common ground, in the interest of our country, I'm prepared to meet you half-way, which I think we need to do.

Here is what Kerry said this morning:

“After serious consideration, I have decided to vote against this nomination. Dr. Rice is a principal architect, implementer, and defender of a series of administration policies that have not made our country as secure as we should be and have alienated much-needed allies in our common cause of winning the war against terrorism. Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice’s testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America’s role in the world. On Iraq, on North Korea, on Iran, to name just a few of the most critical challenges, it seems to be more of the same.

“I hope I am proven wrong. I hope the course will change. And I hope that the administration will recognize the strength of a foreign policy that has bipartisan support. I am prepared to work with Dr. Rice and others in the administration to try to reach agreement on policies that will truly strengthen our security and restore America’s credibility on the world stage. And I am confident colleagues on both sides of the aisle are prepared to do so as well."

How disappointing that Barack Obama consented to Rice's nomination, as did Russell Feingold, Chris Dodd, Bill Nelson, Paul Sarbanes, and Joseph Biden. Write to them, let them know that they conceded too quickly. Write to them anyway-- they may still redeem themselves in the full Senate vote.

By all means, contact Senators Boxer and Kerry to thank them for their patriotism.

The hearing ended more quickly than originally scheduled. The announced schedule on the SCFR's website stated:

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Secretary of State Nomination - Part I
Time: 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
- Break -
2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Place: 216 Hart Senate Office Building
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Secretary of State Nomination - Part II
Time: 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
- Break -
2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
9:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M.
Place: 216 Hart Senate Office Building

After Tuesday's hearing the Wednesday schedule was crossed out, replaced with
"9:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M." written in red.

I suppose that they needed to tidy up the room after the vote.