Possible DADT vote today
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
December 8th, 2010
There has been a heightened tension over the past few weeks surrounding the partisan positioning over whether to raise the current tax rates – and on whom – along with the extension of unemployment benefits and whether this battle would eliminate the possibility of a vote on the Defense Authorization Bill (which includes the repeal of DADT). But though I’ve had my douts, I’ve maintained a certain degree of optimism around the prospect.
This is too important to the White House. Not that the President is particularly impassioned about repealing the discriminatory policy, but he needs to shore up support from the more liberal end of the Democratic Party and this is an action that can help that goal. And I’ve also assumed from the beginning that a compromise would be reached in the tax/unemployment negotiations once everyone had an opportunity to make the speeches that their constituents want to hear.
So I’m not particularly surprised that Sen. Reid has announced that he will bring the Defense Authorization Bill up for a cloture vote today. And there is a good chance that it DADT repeal can be achieved.
In September, there were 56 Democratic Senators, of which two – Senators Lincoln and Pryor – voted against cloture. The two Independent Senators supported the vote, but all 42 Republicans withheld their support, claiming that the process cut them out of any ability to challenge specific spending items.
Since September, the Illinois special election removed one Democrat, replacing him with Republican Mark Kirk. But Sen. Pryor has announced that he will support DADT repeal and “will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year.” Unfortunately, his support is offset by Democratic Sen. Manchin who has now raised objections to the repeal. Thus, the count of all-but-certain votes for cloture are 53 Democrats and 2 Independents.
This means that five additional supporters are required from Republicans (and/or Sens. Lincoln and Manchin). There are currently two Republicans who have pledged support of repeal: Sen. Collins and Sen. Brown. But this support is conditional; Sen. Reid must allow Republicans to challenge and debate controversial provisions of the bill, including spending on certain programs that are believed to be based more on financial benefit to specific well-connected military contractors than on actual need. Reid, however, is fearful that unlimited debate would result in the hijacking of the process by endless irrelevant amendments intended to run out the clock.
And this may be the sticking point. Rumors are flying, and posturing, finger pointing, and accusations have begun. The Washington Post reports the position of Reid – as provided by an aide:
Reid has offered Collins a total of 15 amendments in order to get her to vote Yes — 10 for Repubicans and five for Democrats, the aide continues. Reid views this as a reasonable offer, because previous debates on defense authorization bills have had roughly this number of amendments offered, the aide adds.
But as of now, Collins has indicated this offer is “unsatisafctory,” the aide says. A Collins spokesperson denied this account in an email, but declined to elaborate.
I think it rather likely that this little battle will resolve itself. Senator Collins gains nothing by being portrayed as unreasonable and she is a experienced politician who is particularly skilled in crafting and controlling her image.
Assuming that Collins and Reid will find a mutually acceptable position (as, for now, I do), the question is just who else will vote for cloture. There are at least ten other possible supporting votes who are holding their cards close to their chest. We need three.
The President is reported to be calling Senators on both sides of the aisle.
UPDATE: Senator Lieberman is refuting the claims made by Reid’s aide:
“Senator Collins has been working in good faith to achieve an agreement on the process to move forward with the defense bill that contains the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Lieberman said. ”I categorically reject reports by uninformed staffers who have suggested otherwise.”
Lieberman said he wants “those responsible for such baseless allegations” to stop immediately and work to get to an agreement to the defense authorization bill to the Senate floor.
“We are making progress toward an agreement to move forward on the defense bill that includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and I remain confident that we can reach an agreement, which is necessary before any vote on the motion to reconsider is taken,” Lieberman said.
If this turns out to be a posturing ploy from Reid’s office, it likely will backfire. Our community has become unwilling to accept the claims of Reid at face value.