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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Following the vote on the Webb Amendment, Sen. John McCain took to the floor and praised the high level of debate in the Senate over the measure. Perhaps he missed the speech by RNC Chairman and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez: "I think we would demean their service if we were to say to them that there had to be a parity between the time in service out of the country and the time at home."

The Senate could only muster 56 votes to cut off debate on the Webb Amendment, the second time Senate Republicans have successfully filibustered the amendment to ease troop rotation schedules.

Late Update: GOP alternative also fails to muster enough votes to overcome filibuster threat.

We have a copy posted of the GOP alternative to Sen. Jim Webb's troop readiness amendment. It is being billed as the "McCain-Graham" amendment. This comes after Sen. McCain announced on the Senate floor that Sen. John Warner would be sponsoring the resolution. We're told that McCain later retracted that remark, but not before Webb reacted strongly to the purported Warner move.

Confused? So are we. Whatever the case, Warner now says he won't support the Webb Amendment, although he had supported it when it first came to a vote over the summer.

The votes on both amendments are scheduled to take place momentarily.

We've been bringing you reports through the day on the battle in the Senate over the amendment on troop readiness offered by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA).

The big news was that Sen. John Warner (R-VA) was going to offer a non-binding resolution to undercut the Webb Amendment. That was announced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the Senate floor and prompted a swift reaction from Webb, who had been negotiating with Warner but was apparently not told by Warner of his plan.

But now we're hearing that there may be more to this story. It's not clear whether McCain misspoke in saying Warner was the sponsor of the resolution, or whether Warner is now distancing himself from the resolution.

We're looking into it and will have more shortly.

Late Update: What doesn't appear to be in dispute is that Warner has announced he will not vote for the Webb Amendment, after originally supporting it. That is probably the most important takeaway from today's events, not whether Warner stabbed Webb in the back in the process of withdrawing his support for Webb's proposal.

Later Update: Our Greg Sargent is being told that the vote on the Webb Amendment and the GOP non-binding resolution is scheduled to occur in about an hour, at 5:15 ET.

Monday I observed that Solicitor General Paul Clement was the acting attorney general who never was. Well, not quite.

Even though President Bush originally had announced Clement as his choice to replace Alberto Gonzales until a permanent AG was confirmed by the Senate, Clement was edged out by conservative diehard Peter Keisler, in a politically calculated sleight of hand from Bush that has received remarkably little scrutiny.

Turns out though that Clement did actually serve as acting AG, for 24 hours. From the WaPo:

Clement, who was publicly tagged last month as the temporary replacement for Gonzales, wound up officially taking the helm at 12:01 a.m. Monday and relinquishing it 24 hours later, officials said.

The switch was made on Sunday by the White House with no input from Justice Department officials, said two sources with knowledge of the matter. The change added another level of uncertainty to life at the Justice Department, where nearly every top senior official has resigned in the wake of controversies under Gonzales....


That would explain why Clement's photo appeared on the attorney general webpage for a brief time Monday even after Keisler had been announced as acting attorney general by the President. But it still does not entirely explain why Keisler was shuffled into the post. The President said it was so that Clement could prepare for the upcoming Supreme Court term, as if that was a surprise development the President had not foreseen when he first tapped Clement, which was most certainly not the case.

Sen. John Warner (R-VA) will introduce a non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution supporting the gist of the Webb Amendment on troop readiness. The effect is to undermine Sen. Jim Webb's effort to make the troop readiness changes legally binding. And as Greg Sargent reports, Warner didn't even bother to alert his fellow Virginian Webb of the move.

Late Update: Webb responds to Warner's move.

Sen. Joe Biden, on the GOP's successful filibuster of legislation restoring habeas corpus for enemy combatants:

“As I’ve said before, the terrorists win when we abandon our civil liberties. The way we win is to show them that we can fight this war without changing our character as a nation. I hope the Senate reconsiders this issue once again.” . . .

“The position urged by the Administration, that we must choose between Constitutional rights and fighting terrorism effectively, is simply wrong. Our strength as a nation, and our status as a world leader, is based in part on the fact that Americans do not choose between national security and liberty; we demand both,” said Sen. Biden.

TPM Reader ZK makes a good catch. The AP story I linked to below in the post on habeas corpus rights for detainees being rejected by the Senate says the vote was 56-43 "against the bill." ZK writes, "Last I checked that meant 56 Senators voted FOR the bill. You should put up a warning about that - the media sure has changed how they report these votes." Indeed it has, as we noted back in July.

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