From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby
Election day is 48 days away... The Senate may be facing an either/or choice on detainee trial and treatment policy -- either a standoff that produces no bill, or a compromise. Per NBC's Ken Strickland, Majority Leader Bill Frist says Sen. John McCain (R) and his allies don't have a filibuster-proof majority to pass their bill. Translation: McCain's group may have more than 50 votes needed for final passage, but if a White House supporter decided to block or filibuster that bill, they wouldn't have the 60 votes needed to overcome it.
On the other hand, it's pretty clear the White House couldn't muster 60 votes for their bill, either, Strickland says. And even as Frist criticized the version drafted by the three Republican holdouts yesterday, he said he wants "to see if there is language that we can all agree to, before taking it to the floor."
As Strickland reported here yesterday, it's possible if not likely that the bulk of the GOP's national security agenda could wind up being considered and voted on in the final few days before Congress departs for recess, since it also looks like the earliest that the Senate will consider legislation on the NSA's warrantless surveillance program is next week.
In the latest stage of Democrats' effort to keep the heat on the Administration over the Iraq war, as opposed to debating them on their preferred battlefield of the broader war on terror, the Senate Democratic leadership today "will announce a major new national Democratic initiative to conduct oversight of the White House and its management of the war," per the release. "Democrats will investigate policy failures and put forward policies to give our troops and the Iraqi people the best chance for success." The probes will be conducted by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which means they'll most likely happen without participation by Senate Republicans.
A top Senate Democratic aide tells First Read that whereas many of the DPC's hearings to date have focused on alleged waste, fraud, and abuse in the Iraq contracting process, the new sessions being announced today are "designed to focus on the conduct and execution of the war." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is expected to say that the forums will not be used "to launch political attacks. We want to find what happened in Iraq, so we can find a policy that gives our troops and the Iraqi people the best chance for success."
The Bushes head back to Washington, but not before the President meets with the head of the Palestinian Authority to call for peace in the Middle East, and Mrs. Bush appears at the Clinton Global Initiative conference to announce a new public-private partnership to improve global health. The White House announced yesterday that the Presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had been scheduled to visit with Bush in Washington separately over the next several days, will now meet with Bush altogether on September 27 to "provide the three leaders an opportunity to discuss further cooperation in enhancing the trilateral relationship."
On the domestic front, Deval Patrick, who ran the civil rights division of the Clinton Justice Department, is now the Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts. Patrick hopes to become the state's first African-American chief executive and only the second elected in US history after Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (D). Republican nominees Ken Blackwell of Ohio and Lynn Swann of Pennsylvania both face uphill battles in their efforts to beat Patrick to the punch.