07/17/2007 04:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Make Tonight Productive in the US Senate

Last night, I gave Kudos to Harry Reid for forcing Republicans to filibuster legislation that could end the war in Iraq, highlighting their stubbornness to address the issue most important to the American public today. I stand by that praise, although I'd prefer forcing the Republicans to stall action in the Senate indefinitely so we can work to organize people around the country to pressure Republicans to take action on Iraq.

However, we face the possibility of building expectations for a showdown tonight but actually seeing nothing but a mostly empty chamber. Starting at 9:30pm, the Senate is scheduled to enter a Quorum Call. In simple terms, this means that 51 Senators must be in the Chamber voting 'Present' in order to proceed with business. If 51 do not do this, then some people presume that Harry Reid's showdown won't amount to much.

But it doesn't have to be that way. According to the Office of the Senate Parliamentarian, the Senate can entertain a motion to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to compel the presence of absent Senators. For this motion to pass, it requires a majority of those voting present in the quorum call to be approved.

Here is a tidbit from the Senate Sergeant at Arms' website:

... the Senate gave the Sergeant at Arms authority to "summon and command the absent Members" to appear in the Chamber to establish a quorum -- the language was later modified to "... request the attendance of absent Members." The Senate has occasionally voted to have the Sergeant at Arms "arrest" absent Members and bring them to the Chamber, usually to try to end filibusters.

At any rate, I think it's worth urging Senator Reid to do everything in his power to force Republicans to address this issue while he's garnered the media spotlight on tonight's activities. Please call Senator Reid's office and urge them to do what it takes to hold the Republicans accountable for their unwillingness to address the Iraq War.

Senator Reid's number is: 202-224-2158. Call now.

Of course, the Republicans could show up and vote for Quorum. Then, I'm not sure where we would be. The rules of the Senate are more complex than I can grasp right now. But, one thing is for sure. To move the ball forward in ending the Iraq War, Senator Reid must make the most of the opportunity that tonight has presented.