Last night the U.S. Senate erased a page of history, literally.
The body agreed to permanently remove from the constitutionally mandated Congressional Record a vote taken earlier in the evening on a measure that said the president should not pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
The Senate vote failed 47-49, but any reference to the vote itself was expunged as though it never happened.
Libby was convicted March 6 for lying and obstructing a leak investigation that reached into the highest levels of the Bush administration. His 18-month prison sentence was commuted by President Bush on July 2.
The Senate was in the process of finishing up an education bill when various Republican senators called for votes on measures having nothing to do with education. Some of the topics included Guantanamo Bay and the Fairness Doctrine.
After apparently getting annoyed, Democrats countered with the Libby amendment. "If you are going to shoot this way, we have to shoot that way," said Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., on the floor.
'Gun to the knife fight'
Republicans were beside themselves. "Until this last amendment, I haven't seen politically inspired amendments before this body," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said in opposition. There was so much audible grumbling from senators in reaction — and disbelief — that Kyl had to pause for it to subside.
After the Libby vote failed, Republicans struck back hard, offering an amendment condemning about a dozen previous pardons by former President Bill Clinton. As one GOP aide put it, "We brought our gun to the knife fight."
Clinton was criticized after issuing more than 140 acts of executive clemency in his last few days in office.
But cooler heads prevailed when both party leaders decided not to have the Clinton vote, and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada simply asked that the Libby vote "be vitiated and stricken from the record."
And with those words, it never happened — except on C-SPAN tapes.