Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for December, 2010

Sen. Reid Returns Lt. Choi’s West Point Ring

Jim Burroway

December 22nd, 2010

Via Sen. Harry Reid’s Twitter feed: “Five months after I promised to repeal #DADT, I’m so happy to give back this West Point ring to @ltdanchoi.”

Update: Lt. Choi’s clever reaction via Twitter: “The next time I get a ring from a man, I expect it to be for full, equal, American marriage.”

DADT cloture vote likely on Saturday

Timothy Kincaid

December 17th, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has invoked cloture on the standalone DADT repeal bill. It will likely come up for a cloture vote tomorrow. Assuming that adequate steps are taken to have all supporters present, cloture is expected to pass, and the bill itself can be presented for a vote.

There are still tactics that those Senators who favor institutionalized anti-gay discrimination can take to be troublesome and difficult, but those tactics are increasingly making them appear desperate and, frankly, motivated by unadmirably personal prejudices.

Opposition to this bill is almost certain to tarnish the reputation of those who are leading the charge. History is not likely to be kind.

Brown backs standalone DADT repeal, assures filibuster proof support

Timothy Kincaid

December 16th, 2010

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has announced that now that the tax rate extensions have been resolved, he will support the DADT repeal. (ABC)

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown today voiced his support for a stand-alone repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, bringing the bill one vote over the 60-vote threshold that it will need to reach if and when the Senate votes on the measure in the coming weeks.

“Sen. Brown accepts the Pentagon’s recommendation to repeal the policy after proper preparations have been completed. If and when a clean repeal bill comes up for a vote, he will support it,” said Brown spokesperson Gail Gitcho.

Now the only thing holding up the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is timing. Anti-gay senators may try to run out the clock, but Sen. Lieberman believes that there is enough time even will allowable stalling tactics. We will see whether Sen. Reid will prioritize the DADT repeal and allow it to pass or put it low enough on the agenda that it is killed for at least the next two years.

Lieberman Proposes “Hail Mary” To Revive DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

According to Towleroad, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is holding a news conference saying that he and Sen. Susan Collins will introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT. He says that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on the new measure.  So far, there are no details on the timing. An identical stand alone bill would also have to pass the House.

Reid Calls Snap Vote on DADT; His Failure Kills the Bill

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid made the snap decision just moments ago to call for a cloture vote on the Defense Authorization Bill that contains language repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It failed, garnering only 57 of the 60 votes needed, with 40 voting against. Surprisingly, Sen. Susan Collins salvaged her reputation by voting for cloture at the last minute — but only when it was clear the bill would fail.

Only a complete idiot could not see this coming, given the insistence on a relatively minimal number of amendment votes and time for debate that Sen. Collins was asking for. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted against cloture, meaning that he doesn’t even have the social conscience of his predecessor, Robert Byrd.  Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, and Richard Lugar all claimed that they supported DADT’s repeal, but they support boneheaded partisan posturing even more. Like I said, only a complete idiot could not see this coming.

I wonder if Harry Reid saw it coming?

Just like before, political gamesmanship trumps sound policy. But the problem wasn’t just in the Senate. Remember, it was President Obama who insisted that the Senate shouldn’t act before the Defense Department’s study was released — a report that wasn’t scheduled to be released until December 1, right in the middle of a lame duck session following what everyone knew would be a contentious mid-term election. This was his brilliant plan, and he owns the outcome as much as Reid and the GOP.

The very thing that was all too easy to predict has come to pass.

Update: In an act that rubs salt in the wound, we have learned that Reid kept his vote at ”yes” for cloture. By not switching his vote to a “no” vote before voting ended, it means that he cannot bring the bill back up for a vote again under the Senate’s rules. In other words, while the Senate voted it down, Reid has killed the bill for good. That’s pretty much all you need to know about his latest move. For whatever unfathomable reason, Reid engineered its demise, once and for all.

Update: A commenter corrects me on the process:

This was the vote to reconsider the vote by which cloture on the motion to proceed to debate was not invoked.

(See the senate rule here.)

Therefore, Reid switching his vote would have had no effect- you can’t reconsider a vote to reconsider. However, Reid can simply file another cloture motion on the bill which would require 3 days to ripen, then hold another vote for cloture. This happened back in May on the financial reform bill, S.3217. Cloture was filed, rejected, and reconsideration failed. Cloture was filed, rejected, and reconsideration was then waived as part of an agreement, and eventually the bill was passed.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: we’ve got a great bunch of readers. Thanks for the correction.

I would however point out that I do believe that Reid recklessly intended this to go down in flames — or at least didn’t care if it passed one way or another. He knew the vote would be close, but he didn’t even bother to find out if all of his potential “yes” votes were even in the chamber. Sen. Blanche Lincoln was in the dentist’s chair when the vote went down, and Sen. Collins wasn’t even in the chamber when he made the snap call for the vote. If he really wanted it to pass, he would have done what any competent politician would have done and made sure his votes were lined up and present. He didn’t bother to take those minimal fundamental steps, and that omission was unconscionable.

HRC Fires Rare Warning Shot

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

You know things are heating up when the Human Rights Campaign issues a rare warning like this one:

Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, “If senators move forward with a vote on NDAA before a deal has been solidified, the vote will fail and all key players will share the responsibility.”

The statement appears to be aimed at Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, who has been flirting for 24 hours with scheduling a vote on the defense bill that includes the repeal. A planned vote was scrapped Wednesday night after a key Republican senator said she was not satisfied with the results of negotiations.

Of course, we don’t know how the HRC defines “sharing responsibility,” but it’s good to know that more people are beginning to see through Harry Reid’s machinations and are willing to call him on it.

Meanwhile,  The Washington Post reports that it’s Harry Reid who is stonewalling Sen. Susan Collins and jeopardizing DADT repeal, not the other way around:

[Sen. Collins] said she largely accepted Reid’s offer of 15 amendments, but added she needed four days of debate on them.

Guess what: Reid has yet to respond to her offer, according to a spokesperson for Collins. “As of this morning, Senator Collins has not received a response from the Majority Leader,” the spokesman, Kevin Kelley, tells me.

This is potentially bad news. Word is that the Senate may vote today on the defense authorization bill containing DADT repeal. It seems likely that if Collins’ every demand isn’t met, she’s prepared to stop the defense authorization bill from proceeding, and other moderate Republicans who generally support repeal may also vote No.

Collins/Reid deal in process; vote not tonight

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2010

TMP is reporting that Collins and Reid are in agreement on the number of amendments and that Collins is requesting more time for debate and that it occur immediately following the tax compromise vote. It looks as though they may finally be trying to work together:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already promised her the 15 amendments, but his initial offer was for a day or two of debate. Here’s her response to reporters tonight, after a Senate vote.

“The majority leader’s allotment of time for to debate those amendments was extremely short, so I have suggested doubling the amount of time, assuring that there would be votes, and making sure that the Republicans get to pick our own amendments as opposed to the Majority Leader.”

“If he does that I will do all that I can to help him proceed to the bill. But if he does not do that, then I will not,” she added.

Late this evening, per Collins’ request, Reid delayed a test vote he’d planned to hold tonight.

The tax bill may take up most of the week, so we may not see an actual Defense Bill cloture vote until perhaps Saturday.

“I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote…so that we could get the tax bill considered first — which I believe could be on the floor tomorrow — and completed by Saturday, and then move immediately to the DOD bill, but under a fair agreement.”

DADT Repeal Getting Caught Up In Gamesmanship

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2010

This analysis from TPM illustrates the tensions between Reid and Collins:

“I’ve been pleading with Senator Reid, don’t hold a vote on the defense authorization bill, the repeal of DADT, until we have a good opportunity to work out a fair process for the consideration bill with Senator Collins and some of the other Republican,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) this afternoon after a Dem caucus meeting. “Senator Collins really wants to vote for the bill with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Senator Scott Brown is the same and I think there may be at least one other Republican Senator to make that clear today.”

That third Republican has since been revealed as Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

…From Reid’s point of view the math is two-dimensional. By calling the vote, and leaking to the press, he ups the pressure on Collins to make a decision — and quickly. At the same time, he creates a focal point for liberal animus if the Senate fails to pass repeal before this Congress comes to an end and with it hope for a legislative solution to DADT. That’s not helpful to Lieberman, who wants to keep negotiations fluid, egos unbruised and the bill alive.

It’s not the policy they’re arguing over. It’s all about how they will spin the blame if it goes down in defeat.

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.

Timothy Kincaid

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.

DADT Cloture Vote May Come Up This Evening

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2010

Is this the end game for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s” repeal? Alex Nicholson at Servicemembers United smells more empty political posturing which, if true, could end up dooming DADT for at least the next two years:

If Senator Reid has received confirmation that Republican supporters of repeal are satisfied with the tax cuts deal, then the issue becomes the number of amendments and amount of floor time that Senator Reid is offering on the bill. As of this morning, it is our understanding that he is still lowballing his offer and presumably hoping that we will just blame ‘the Republicans.’ If he does not move his offer into the realm of reasonableness, then he will be intentionally throwing the vote when he brings it up.

Sound familiar?

Senate Republicans have already announced that they will block all bills in the Senate until the tax deal is worked out. Clearly that’s not the case yet, as many House and Senate Democrats are in open rebellion over the compromise reached by President Obama. Only two GOP votes are needed to break the Republican logjam, and Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are seen as two possibilities for achieving cloture for the Defense Authorization Bill which contains the measure repealing DADT. But as I see it, that’s a very shaking foundation for going forward. On every single vote — whether its health care reform or DADT repeal — in which Snowe and Collins were seen as potential bipartisan supporters, they have reliably refused to break ranks with the GOP every time. I would be dumbstruck if past behavior didn’t portend future behavior. And so the political theater continues.

Update: A spokesman for Susan Collins provides another soliloquy in this political theater:

Senator Collins has maintained that the Senate should be focused on taxes and the economy (especially since the tax provisions expire on January 1) and obviously we need to pass a bill funding the government before Friday.These are top priorities and there is limited time.

However, she believes there is time to consider other issues as well, and she has made it clear that if the Majority Leader brings the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, for example, and allows sufficient debate and amendments, she would vote to proceed to the bill.

You see, that’s how you say yes while actually saying no. And since Reid knows full well Collins’s position and is lowballing his offer anyway, he, too, is saying yes while actually saying no. They both just hope we’re too dumb to notice.

Update 2: Sen. Joseph Lieberman pushes back on the naysayers:

“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.’ I categorically reject reports by uninformed staffers who have suggested otherwise. As she always does, Senator Collins is working diligently and across party lines to find solutions to the challenges that confront our country. I call on those responsible for such baseless allegations to stop immediately and instead work to get to an agreement to bring this critical bill to the floor for Senate action.  

“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. I am working closely with Senator Reid and Senator Collins and other members who want to reach a fair and reasonable agreement to move the defense authorization bill that that is so essential to the needs of our troops, veterans, and their families.  

“It is now more clear than ever that we have 60 or more votes in support of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so it is vitally important to reach agreement on the right process to move forward.”

It’s that last part, “the right process to move forward,” which is the lynch pin.

The White House IS Showing Leadership on DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2010

It’s just not the leadership we expected to see two years ago. Consider the evidence as The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld reviews Reid’s announcement of the Senate’s floor schedule:

Oh yeah, that.

The near-final nail in the coffin was delivered by Senate majority leader Harry Reid over the weekend when he announced the floor schedule for the week of December 6: nothing Monday, on Tuesday/Wednesday an impeachment trial of a federal judge from Louisiana, with the first votes of the week likely to come on Thursday.

Once the impeachment is a wrap, Reid noted that left “a pretty clear path” to what else needed to be addressed – tax cuts, a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty plus votes on some other extraneous bills, one of which included the DREAM Act. …

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin — perhaps slightly dismayed at no mention of the National Defense Authorization Act — prodded Reid to “say something about the Defense bill.”

Oh yeah … that. “We’re also trying to figure out a time to move forward on the defense authorization bill,” Reid added, along with offering some minutiae about process and time being too scarce to debate the bill without putting limitations on the number of amendments and length of debate.

In other words, it’s not on Reid’s radar. Especially now that  he can’t milk it for the midterm elections.

Kerry also notes that DADT repeal hasn’t made the White House’s list of “must-haves” for the lame duck session. In fact, the White House’s list just happens to match Reid’s list to a tee. It’s also not among the White House’s talking points, nor does Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mention it unless asked directly — usually by Eleveld.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates can read the tea leaves as well as anyone. While he has supported DADT’s repeal from the very beginning, he told sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea today, “I’d have to say I’m not particularly optimistic that they’re going to get this done.”

There’s a lot of talk that the demise of DADT repeal reflects Obama’s lack of leadership on this issue, but I disagree. I think it’s time we recognized that the White House HAS been showing leadership on DADT. It’s just not the kind of leadership we expected when he said its repeal would a a priority for him. Examples of Obama’s leadership include:

  • Setting the contentious midterm year of 2010 as the year for repeal.
  • Agreeing to a timetable that called for the Pentagon to study repeal but not complete its work or release its report until December — with just one month left before the 111th Congress expires.
  • Actively discouraging any attempt to repeal DADT before the Pentagon releases its report.
  • Refusing to lobby Capital Hill for DADT’s repeal.
  • Opposing DADT’s demise through the courts by appealing the decision striking down DADT as unconstitutional.

Just as Harry Reid got exactly what he wanted when he deliberately set DADT repeal up for failure last September, we would have to be the world’s greatest fools not to conclude that Obama has gotten exactly what he wanted in this entire debacle as well. The entire strategy was laid out too deliberately to conclude otherwise. How this consciously engineered fiasco is supposed to serve him, I haven’t the foggiest clue. But then, I’m not the one make the political calculations here. All I can do is look at the evidence that is right in front of my nose. And it reeks.

And by the way, the HRC’s political calculator is worse than the President’s. Remember when Joe Solmonese was so confident in Obama’s plan? Good times.

DADT updates

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2010

It is difficult to determine exactly how the effort to repeal DADT will shake out in the “lame duck” session. There is a great deal of discussion, news, and movement, and at the moment most seems promising.

The President has finally gotten personally involved (Politico)

Wednesday, Obama – who advocates criticized for not doing enough to influence the Senate vote – called Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to “reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Wednesday afternoon.

And senior White House staff are involved with strategy

On Wednesday evening, several high-ranking administration officials and top members of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s staff met with gay rights advocates to review plans to bring the National Defense Authorization Act – an annual, must-pass military spending bill which contains language repealing the ban on gays in the military – to a vote in the coming weeks.

Republican Senator Collins and Independent-Democrat Senator Lieberman (the President’s point-person on the repeal) have written to the Secretary of Defense calling for the report on the Military survey to be issued in advance of the December 1 deadline so as to “alleviate some concerns” that Senators may have with repealing the policy.

Collins, who supported the repeal in committee and is committed to repeal, joined other Republicans and two Democrats earlier in the year to block a vote on the total Defense Authorization bill due to Sen. Reid’s unusual tactic of denying the ability of Republicans to introduce amendments to the bill. Support for allowing the usual debate has picked up support within the Democratic Caucus and so is less likely to be a sticking point. (Journal Constitution)

A dozen Democrats and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, urged Reid Thursday to allow an extended debate on the wide-ranging defense authorization bill, which includes language repealing the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Lieberman said the Senate’s desire to adjourn before the holidays was no reason to curtail debate and give Republicans an excuse to oppose the bill. Last September, GOP senators blocked the bill because Reid wouldn’t allow the two weeks of debate they said was needed to address such major legislation.

And it appears that if Reid honors that process, at least two Senators will break any filibuster attempt by Senator McCain. (Stars and Stripes)

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told reporters that he believes at least two Republicans will side with repeal advocates when the issue is brought back up for a vote — but with conditions.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Dick Lugar of Indiana have pledged to him in private that they’ll vote to allow debate to continue on the defense authorization bill, which includes the repeal measure, “so long as there is a fair and open amendment process,” he said.

Also, as a possibility, is newly elected Senator Kirk, who is seated immediately to finish out the term of Senator Burris. While Kirk voted against including the DADT repeal in the Defense Authorization bill while a member of the House, he was one of five Republicans to vote for the bill with the repeal included. And Kirk’s stated reason for not including the repeal was that it did preceded the findings of the study, an objection that will no longer be true for this vote.

And few, if any, Senators have joined Senator McCain’s effort to discredit the report. Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and was the sole Democrat to vote in committee against lifting the ban on open service, gave the report high praise (wonk room)

I can’t, again having spent five years in the Pentagon. I can’t remember a study on this type of issue that has been done with this sort of care. Not even having seen it or knowing the results, but I know the preparation that went into it. So it’s going to be a very important study for us to look at and examine.

The only down side may be that the final report will include the reaction and response of the four chiefs of the military divisions. If they are universally opposed to repeal, McCain will seek to use their opposition as a basis for keeping the policy. However, if even one or two are supportive of the plan for implementation of the repeal, this could go a long way towards providing cover for Senators on the fence.

Another odd selling point could be that repealing the ban could resolve tensions between the government and educational institutions. The president of Harvard, which has banned ROTC since 1969, has invited the military to reestablish a presence on the campus once DADT is gone. (Reuters)

“A ROTC program, open to all, ought to be fully and formally present on our campus,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. She made the comment to welcome an evening speech by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer.

Faust drew applause from the audience of several hundred for the offer to restore the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

So although it is still tentative and a lot could still go wrong, for the first time in a long while, I think that there is a better than decent chance that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed before the end of the year.

UPDATE: Wonk Room is reporting that Republican Senators Murkowski intends to vote for repeal. The Washington Blade has also added Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to the list of those in favor of repeal; his previous objection was to the timing of a vote before the survey was complete.

DADT Vote “A Colossal Failure of Leadership”

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2010

The Denver Post nails it:

Senate Republicans, with the help of two Democrats, voted to filibuster the Pentagon’s financing authorization bill, which included the repeal of “don’t ask,” along with the immigrant DREAM Act. The failure to move forward on both measures sheds light on how dysfunctional the U.S. Senate has become.

This is the same Senate that had no trouble passing a health care bill larded with special-interest deals or taking over General Motors. But somehow it couldn’t find the fortitude to right an injustice when it comes to gays serving in the military. What a colossal failure of leadership.

The temptation to lay this failure completely at the feet of the forty Republicans and two Democrats who voted against ending the filibuster is tremendous. After all, they were the ones actually responsibly for blocking the legislation. But we cannot forget that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rigged the process in order to squander the votes that were already there to break the filibuster. In failing to break the filibuster, Reid got what he wanted — as did a lot of Senators on both sides of the aisle — and he’s already cashing in on the failure he engineered.

Harry Reid Uses DADT Debacle in Campaign Ad

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2010
Sen. Harry Reid's Facebook Ad

Sen. Harry Reid's Facebook Campaign Ad

Pam Spaulding found this ad running on facebook. No doubt, similar ads will begin appearing in other media as well — maybe even radio and/or television. I expect we may see similar ads from John McCain from the other side. Yesterday’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debacle engineered partly by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and made possible by forty Republicans and two fellow Democrats is now today’s campaign theme.

Well gee, who’d a thunk it?

Does This Mean Harry Reid Gets To Keep Dan Choi’s Ring?

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2010
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Lt. Dan Choi at Netroots Nation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Lt. Dan Choi at Netroots Nation (Photo by Pam Spaulding)

If we’re going to cast blame for yesterday’s debacle in the Senate as Democrats failed to break a Republican filibuster against a Defense Appropriations Bill that would begin the process of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it is important to make sure everyone is accounted for. First and foremost, primary responsibility must fall on all forty Republicans and the two Democrats, Arkansans Blanche L. Lincoln and Mark Pryor, who supported the filibuster. They will be remembered for being on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of what some three-fourths of the American people support.

But anyone with any powers of observation over the circumstances under which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to the floor cannot reasonably escape the conclusion that the filibuster suits his political purposes as well, as he and many other Senate Democrats struggle to hold onto their seats in tight mid-term campaigns. To not recognize that what happened yesterday was nothing but political theater, and that all the participants came away with something they wanted going into the final stretch of the campaign season — well let’s just say that just because Schoolhouse Rock didn’t cover political theater, it doesn’t mean it’s not an important byproduct of the legislative process, even if (or especially if) a bill fails to become a law. And in this case, that nasty byproduct was more important than actually doing the horse-trading it takes to pass the bill itself.

Last July when Reid appeared at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas, he was approached by Lt. Dan Choi, who had just been discharged from the Army. Choi handed Reid his West Point ring with the promise that Choi would hold Reid accountable for passing DADT’s repeal. “When the bill’s signed, I’ll keep it safely and then give it back to him,” Reid said. I guess the ring is still safe somewhere.

The DADT Repeal Repertory Theater

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2010

It’s official. The start of the process of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been put on hold. Both Arkansas Democrats, Blanche L. Lincoln and Mark Pryor, joined all 40 Republicans to sustain the filibuster against the National Defense Appropriations Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote at the last minute in a procedural maneuver that will allow him to bring the bill back to the Senate floor for a later revote. At this time, that vote will almost certainly not take place until after the November elections during a lame-duck session.

In the days leading up to today’s vote, Reid announced that he would allow a vote on only three amendments to the appropriations bill. One proposed amendment, which would have removed the DADT repeal language from the bill, would almost certainly not have garnered the sixty votes needed pass muster. A second proposed amendment, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who served in the U.S. military or who graduate from college, also likely would have failed due to Republican opposition and discomfort among some Democrats. A third proposed amendment would have placed limits on Senators being able to place holds on nominations.

Those were the only amendments that Reid would allow to come up for a vote, all of which were chosen by Reid for the political advantage they would give the Democrats in tough mid-term election campaigns. His gamble wasn’t really a gamble at all. In fact, his gambit was a win-win for Democrats, at least in how they see their strategy unfolding. If Republicans upheld the filibuster, then Reid could go home and say that it was the Republicans who blocked DADT’s repeal and immigration reform. If the Dems had prevailed on the filibuster, then Reid would have been able to get the Republican caucus on record on these two issues ahead of the November elections. Either way, what Reid actually sought to accomplish was political gamesmanship, not Senatorial statesmanship.

The Republican caucus insisted that they be allowed to bring proposed amendments up for a vote as well, a reasonable demand that in ordinary times would not have raised an eyebrow. But these are not ordinary times. Votes in the Senate aren’t about actually doing anything but positioning for the elections. I don’t know what amendments Republicans wanted votes on, but they were undoubtedly just as politically divisive as Reid’s chosen amendments. But by not even allowing debate on a very limited number of those other amendments, Reid doomed DADT’s repeal until after the election.

The sixty votes needed to break the filibuster had already been lined up, but that was before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to limit debates and votes on amendments. That led to a collapse in support in ending the filibuster. Servicemembers United, which has been campaigning for DADT’s repeal, saw through Reid’s political posturing. SU’s Executive Director Alexander Nicholson criticized Reid’s position yesterday on MSNBC:

“If Senator Reid would just budge a little bit and come to an agreement on a reasonable way to proceed, we could potentially get the votes. But so far, he’s not been willing to do that, unfortunately.”

Following today’s vote, Nicholson said called it “a failure of leadership.” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis was more circumspect, saying:

Today’s Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law. We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections.

So if Reid had the votes to break the filibuster but squandered them in this procedural maneuver, why did he do this? The answer is simple. This was never a serious attempt to pass legislation in the best interests of the American people. It was nothing but political theater, and everyone on both sides were eager actors in the drama. All the Senators had a role to play, and everyone played to the audience. Even the White House was given a bit part. They issued a statement calling for an end to the filibuster, but according to SLDN’s Trevor Thomas, there was no lobbying behind the scenes.

And now that the vote has been taken, the play moves on to its second act: everyone now gets to go home and use it on the campaign trail. Republicans, even those who support DADT’s repeal, will be able to brag that they stood up to the evil Democratic machine. Democrats will be able to blame the evil Republican machine for blocking legislation that three-fourths of the American population agree on.

What happens in the third act — when the legislation re-appears in a lame-duck session after the elections — is anybody’s guess right now. It’s shaping up to be quite a cliff-hanger, so don’t touch that dial!

And what role do we in the gay community play? It’s the same role we always play. We’re the interesting and colorful plotline. It’s not much of a speaking part, but the dance moves are fabulous. And why should it be otherwise? It’s a role we’ve played so well over the years that it’s just expected of us. And we are happy to oblige. This time, we even have Lady Gaga making a guest appearance.

Which makes all of this really funny when you think about it. For all the talk of unbridgeable differences in today’s political landscape, Reid’s maneuver was a gift to all one hundred Senators of something every one of them wanted: a campaign issue. With today’s drama, everyone wins — Hooray for Reid! — everyone, that is, with the exception of the American people.

Sen. Collins: “I Cannot Vote to Proceed”

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s insistence on refusing to allow votes on amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill is having the feared effect of driving previous Republican supporters of the bill from voting for cloture. This is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on the Senate floor:

They deserve to have a civil, fair and open debate on the Senate floor, and that is why I am so disappointed that rather than allowing full and open debate and the opportunity for amendments from both sides of the aisle, the majority leader apparently intends to shut down the debate and exclude Republicans from offering a number of amendments

…Now, Mr. President, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I support the provisions in this bill. I debated for them. I was the sole Republican in the committee that voted for the Lieberman-Levin language on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s only fair, I think we should welcome the service of these individuals who are willing and capable of serving their country. But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments.”

According to reports, Reid once had her vote, but he lost it when he made the decision to refuse to allow votes on Republican amendments. Others on the fence were George Lemieux (R-FL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME);, Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Jim Webb (D-VA), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Kit Bond (R-MO). It is unclear what effect Collins’ decision will have on the others.

The White House has issued a public statement supporting the Defense Authorization bill, but the Washington Blade quotes Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Trevor Thomas: ”We have not seen any signs that the White House has been whipping this vote in the last 48 hours.”

DADT repeal included in defense bill today

Timothy Kincaid

September 21st, 2010

Sen. Harry ReidToday Senator Reid will bring up the 2011 Defense Appropriations Bill for cloture – the process to bring the bill to a vote. Although the bill itself only requires 50 votes, cloture (ending discussion) requires 60 votes.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few stumbling blocks in the bill which may result in Republicans unanimously voting against cloture. As Jim reported, Reid is denying the ability of Republicans to offer amendments to the bill, even those which would likely have broad bipartisan support, while reserving for himself the right to introduce some of his own. Here are a few of the problems with the bill:

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – although this is the highest profile provision, it may not be the most controversial. A few conservative Senators have railed on about this, but I strongly doubt that this alone would have been adequate to hold up the defense bill. However, this will likely be the only provision that gets the blame.

Abortion – the bill would change the rules to allow for abortions to be performed in government hospitals.

Dream Act – this is a provision that would provide citizenship to some immigrants in the country illegally. In addition to it having only tangential relationship to Defense (the listed criteria includes Military service, a provision already available), it is controversial and not broadly supported.

Wasteful Spending
– the White House has indicated that it is concerned about provisions of the bill that it sees as pork and has threatened a veto. They are unlikely to be alone in wishing to question some expenditures that may be focused less on defense than on providing federal money to “the folks back home.”

Unless Harry Reid allows Republicans to at least plead their case on these and other issues, there is a high likelihood that moderate Republicans will refuse support.

Is Sen. Reid Sabotaging DADT’s Repeal?

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2010

That’s what Servicemembers’s United’s Alexander Nicholson is asking this morning:

Sen. Harry ReidJust more than 60 votes had been lined up to break a filibuster on (the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA) and allow the legislation to move forward for debate, amendments and a final vote before the Senate adjourns for yet another month-and-a-half-long recess. That was until Sen. Reid announced he was going to use his status as Senate Majority Leader to block the minority’s customary ability to also offer their amendments to the massive annual defense-spending bill.

This unusual and controversial move by Sen. Reid predictably enraged all Republicans, including the few who were previously prepared to help break the filibuster and allow a repeal-inclusive NDAA to move forward. And who can blame them? This isn’t a very fair move on Sen. Reid’s part, and it wasn’t a very fair move at points in the past when Republicans did it either.

…Observers are already catching on to the fact that Sen. Reid is setting himself up to simply say “I tried” when Republicans vote to filibuster NDAA on Tuesday, but “I tried” will not be good enough anymore. We see through this trick, and we’ll make sure everyone else does, too. If NDAA fails this week because of cheap political stunts, we will ensure it is the Senate leadership that is held accountable, not the unreasonably slighted minority.

DADT repeal vote next week

Timothy Kincaid

September 13th, 2010

From the Washington Blade:

A senior Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Reid met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday to inform the Republican leader that the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill will come to the Senate floor the week of Sept. 20.

The aide said Senate leadership is anticipating the Senate won’t have unanimous consent to bring the legislation to the floor, so 60 votes will be necessary to end a filibuster and move forward with debate on the bill.

“We are going to take it the floor next week to see where the votes are,” the aide said.

The repeal of the military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is part of the 2011 defense authorization bill.

Older Posts