Tales from the Trail

Afghan hearings takeaway: Charlie Wilson, swimming pools

They weren’t the most “important” words said today at congressional hearings on President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan war strategy, but the following snippets were memorable.

AFGHANISTANAfghanistan and swimming pools:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “We’re not just going to throw these guys into the swimming pool … and walk away.”

Senator Joe Lieberman responded: “I appreciate what you said. We’re not just going to throw the Afghans into the pool and — and — and run away until we’re sure that they can swim on their own.”

Remembering Charlie Wilson’s war:

Senator Bill Nelson:  “During the ’70s and the ’80s I had the privilege of serving with Congressman Charlie Wilson in the House of Representatives.” USA/

Nelson says to Gates: “I am so happy to see in your statement and I quote you, ‘We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989 when we abandon the country only to see it descend into civil war and then into Taliban hands.’

The First Draft: Democrats turn to Clinton in Senate healthcare push

Former President Bill Clinton is due to visit Capitol Hill today to talk healthcare reform with Senate Democrats and their independent allies. PHILANTHROPY-CLINTON/

The meeting’s important because Democrats have yet to find the 60 votes they need to stop Senate Republicans from blocking President Barack Obama’s signature domestic issue. House Democrats got their end of the job done over the weekend by passing landmark legislation.

Clinton’s presidency was overshadowed by his own failed bid to reform the healthcare system in the 1990s. But NBC said he could help sway Democrats wavering in the current debate, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln of his home state, Arkansas. CONGRESS BUDGET

Mod Squad infiltrates U.S. Senate budget fight

Their mission is to handcuff some of the money President Barack Obama seeks in his budget request to Congress … deficit-spending that they fear will prey on future generations.

They are the “Mod Squad,” a group of about 15 Senate Democrats, some of them freshmen, whose tentative name reflects their moderate political leanings and is borrowed from a 1960s television drama.

USA-STIMULUS/“The purpose is not to be adversarial to the White House,” ringleader Ben Nelson of Nebraska told reporters on Thursday. Yes, it’s the very same Nelson who helped broker the compromise on the $787 billion economic stimulus bill.

With less than 70 minutes to spare…

U.S. Senate Democrats had less than 70 minutes to spare when they finally filed the paperwork on Saturday for the compromise they reached with a handful of Republicans for the $827 billion economic stimulus package, setting up a vote for early next week.

USA/Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had hoped to file the specific language much earlier on Saturday but drafting took significantly longer. The compromise measure, some 778 pages long, was brokered by Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson.

With the paperwork filed, that will set a vote for 5:30 p.m. EST on Monday to wrap up debate on the stimulus package. If there are 60 votes, the Senate will vote on passing the legislation on Tuesday