Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 21, 2010

SENATE GOP BLOCKS DADT REPEAL, MILITARY SPENDING.... One of the more striking aspects of this afternoon's developments is how likely it seemed -- fairly recently -- that the Senate would do the right thing.

After all, just a few months ago, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and approving the defense authorization bill was very much on track. President Obama was on board, as was the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and two former Joint Chiefs leaders, including Colin Powell. Polls showed broad, bipartisan support for this, including a majority of rank-and-file Republicans. The House passed their version with relative ease.

The Senate is often a graveyard for worthwhile legislation, but even here, there was reason for optimism. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with Democrats in committee, and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) signaled he would not support a filibuster of military funding. In May, with success looking secure, TPM ran a piece: "How The Deal To Repeal DADT Got Done."

And yet, this afternoon, the deal got un-done. Republicans successfully filibustered a motion to proceed on the defense spending bill this afternoon, blocking a debate from even getting underway.

The final roll call: 56 to 43. It was actually 57 to 42, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote for procedural reasons, allowing him to be able to bring the bill back to the floor at a later date. And in the U.S. Senate, when 57 senators support something, and 42 oppose it, the 57-vote majority loses.

We are, by the way, talking about legislation that funds the U.S. military during two wars. It even includes money for a pay raise for Americans troops. But it also includes allowing servicemen and women to wear the uniform, even if they're gay. Republicans would have had an opportunity to push an amendment to keep the DADT policy in place, but that wasn't good enough, and every GOP senator on the floor today stood in lock-step to say, "No."

They were joined by one two conservative Democrats: Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both of Arkansas. Lincoln may be under the truly ridiculous impression that joining Republicans to kill a military spending bill will help her salvage a re-election campaign she's losing by more than 20 points. It won't.

Of particular interest was Maine's Susan Collins, who voted in committee for the same bill she filibustered today. To hear Collins tell it, she supports DADT repeal, but had to kill the legislation anyway, because of procedural issues -- she wanted the Democratic majority to promise to allow more amendments during the debate.

She wasn't satisfied with the response, so Collins ensured that there won't be a debate, and the policy change she claims to support is likely dead for the foreseeable future.

In other words, in Susan Collins' mind, Senate procedure matters more than fairness, equality, and decency towards U.S. servicemen and women. Collins -- and Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown, the alleged "moderates" -- sided with far-right, anti-gay conservatives over procedural nonsense.

Watching the debate, I was thinking of Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach. He's an F-15 fighter pilot, and an 18-year veteran of the United States Air Force. He flew combat missions over Afghanistan in 2002, and over Iraq in 2003.

The U.S. government invested $25 million in training Fehrenbach, and it was money well spent -- he's a highly decorated pilot, having received nine air medals, including one for heroism. He's flown 88 combat missions, and logged more than 2,000 flying hours. In the midst of two wars, this hero is ready to deploy again, serving his country honorably, but because of his sexual orientation, the government has said Fehrenbach's services are no longer needed.

I'd love to see Susan Collins look Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach in the eye and tell him Senate procedure is more important than his career. For that matter, I'd love to hear Collins' Republican colleagues explain why Americans are better off throwing Fehrenbach out of the military than allowing him to serve.

And just as an aside, try to imagine the response from Republicans and the media if, under Bush/Cheney, every Senate Democrat united to filibuster a debate on the defense spending bill in the midst of two wars.

Steve Benen 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

Again we have Snowe/Collins being only moderately harmful to the Republic.

Sigh...
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on September 21, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

The only way that you are going to get Rs to change their minds is to make it politically painful for them to obstruct. For example, if tomorrow the DSCC started running ads accusing Republican Senators who are up for election of not supporting the troops and not authorizing money for combat missions, it would be interesting to see what would happen.

Posted by: Mrgavel on September 21, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, on a day when Fehrenbach's presence might have sent a powerful message in Maine, Mainers got Lady Gaga instead.

Game, set, match Republicans.

Posted by: dr. bloor on September 21, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Just one more potent indicator of how f'd this country is.

Posted by: mrmagoo on September 21, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Considering that Mr Fehrenbach's sexual orientation was only exposed as a result of his being accused of sexual assault, I am not sure he is really the poster child for gay rights, even if he was cleared of wrongdoing.

Posted by: Jack on September 21, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I love that we spend $25 mil to train one pilot for a job irrelevant to the real security of this country, but we have no money for teachers.

Posted by: Gutless Dems on September 21, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now that the DoD doesn't have any money, it's time to start closing bases and canceling procurement contracts. Starting with Maine and Massachusetts, and then moving on to every other state with a Republican senator.

Posted by: MCD on September 21, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I guess we'd better clear out of Iraq and Afghanistan, since we can't afford to buy bullets.

Posted by: MCD on September 21, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

If I had any doubt about Blank Lincoln, it's done now. Worthless POS that she is.

Posted by: Roger on September 21, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

How close are we to balancing the budget, if we stop having a military? Can we just never bring up the Defense Appropriations bill ever again? We could have our tax cuts AND a balanced budget! Everybody wins (except people who get off on blowing things up).

Posted by: MCD on September 21, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The U.S. government invested $25 million in training Fehrenbach, and it was money well spent...

Says you.

I'm with @Gutless Dems. For my tax dollars you could have spent the 25 million dollars on teacher traing, or school facilities upgrades.

Yesterday Oprah gave several high performing charter school systems 1 million dollars while Gozillionare Bill Gates looked on. We could do so much better.

Posted by: Winkandanod on September 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Would Republican be for or against unemployment insurance for a million ex-soldiers and sailors? Maybe we should limit the tax cuts to incomes less than $250K so we can support our ex-troops...

Posted by: MCD on September 21, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

It will be that they were against it before they are for it. Probably incosiderate to throw Kerry under the bus, but that's the ad to run post-passage.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on September 21, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate is a joke.

Lincoln is quite likely not going to get re-elected no matter how she votes, so if she really doesn't want it that OK vote against but if she supported it go ahead because it won't really matter.

Collins is playing the rules game which no one outside the Senate understands but which contributes to the belief that the Senate is a joke.

All those DoD people that the GOP says love them need to start back channeling about how this (i.e. the funding ) will "hurt the troops" now because clearly the troops aren't as important as keeping the gays out.

Posted by: ET on September 21, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

And just as an aside, try to imagine the response from Republicans and the media if, under Bush/Cheney, every Senate Democrat united to filibuster a debate on the defense spending bill in the midst of two wars.

And while we're pondering that double standard, let's try to imagine conservatvies complaining about a "liberal media."

Oh, wait -- we don't have to imagine that one.


If the Democratic Party had any sense -- yeah, yeah, I know -- they'd never stop pointing out the way the so-called "moderate" Senators Snowe and Collins vote in lockstep with the likes of Jeff Sessions and Jim DeMint. I don't think the voters of the great state of Maine want a rabid neo-Confederate as their Senator, but with this pair voting in lockstep, that's what they're getting.

The whole point is to make their lockstep voting with jackasses like Mitch McConnell and John Ensign have a higher price than whatever clib the GOP is holding over their heads.

Posted by: Gregory on September 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

This is an easy one for the Republicans to scotch. For Senator Collins, it is more important for a show of power than to end a disgusting discrementary policy. A sad day.

Good luck to Senator Reed. I hope he can smoke out this vote yet.

Posted by: clevergirl on September 21, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

MCD said:
Well, now that the DoD doesn't have any money, it's time to start closing bases and canceling procurement contracts.

You wish!

The Democrats will surrender (again!) in 3 . . . 2 . . .

Posted by: SteveT on September 21, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

And all my breaking news emails say "Senate fails to vote fir DADT" not "Republicans block vote on defense spending"

This country is fucked. Totally and completely fucked. The government needs to have a super majority to do anything and the media follows Republicans at every step like puppies just waiting to be kicked again.

And We The People allow it.

ARGH!!!!!

Posted by: Msjoanne on September 21, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Many of the commenters are blaming specific senators for this failure. It appears, however, that, at least to gay rights activists, President Obama will get full credit for this failure. Coming right after his attack on liberals, it appears the president has opted for shrinking the Big Tent that put him in office. If the polls are correct and the Repugnants take the House, then there is no future for repeal of DADT in this president's tenure. In the meantime, lots of good people in our military will continue to be in danger of exposure and discharge because the President couldn't be bothered to lobby senators on this issue. This is not how you motivate your base, folks. So, who's taking bets on whether the DOJ appeals the recent court ruling on DADT?

Posted by: Temple Houston on September 21, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

In Lincoln's (slight) defense, I believe she had voted WITH the Democrats to invoke cloture, but changed to no right at the end, just seconds before Reid also voted no so that he could make the motion to reconsider.

But I agree, if she did so in hopes it would save her hide, it was ridiculous. So too was Collins' explanation: "You're being unfair by not letting Republicans offer all the amendments we want, so we're going to retaliate by continuing to treat gay Americans as second-class citizens not worthy to wear the uniform."

Posted by: jayBee on September 21, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Collins and Brown aren't afraid of gays in the military, they're afraid of what just happened to Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski.

Just because it's a tired cliche doesn't make it less true: Republicans fear their base, Democrats mock theirs.

Posted by: Dwight on September 21, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Temple Houston: "the President couldn't be bothered to lobby senators on this issue"

Just who do you think the President could have lobbied and got a change of vote? I understand VP Biden lobbied the Maine girls, and I suspect he has more clout with them than Obama does.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on September 21, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Those who condemn the whole repub caucus on this issue are perpetrating an injustice. In fact, there was significant support from a key republican block. Namely, the "I just got teabagged" caucus. Lisa M didn't vote, as she was campaigning in Seward's Political Cesspit, thereby proving she's a better Democrat than Lincoln or Pryor (who also voted no.)

Posted by: Tim H on September 21, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Also, bombing people from a great height isn't actually heroic. It's actually rather cowardly.

Posted by: king buzzo on September 21, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

"… I'd love to hear Collins' Republican colleagues explain why Americans are better off throwing Fehrenbach out of the military than allowing him to serve."

My guess is that they'd insist Lt. Col. Fehrenbach pay back the $25 million.

Posted by: alopecia on September 21, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, on a day when Fehrenbach's presence might have sent a powerful message in Maine, Mainers got Lady Gaga instead.

Game, set, match Republicans.

Indeed, Lady Gaga's power is such that she traveled backward in time to force Collins and Snowe to vote against numerous other, totally unrelated pieces of legislation that their blue state supports.

Posted by: fred on September 21, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

The congressional Dimocrats have been handed another golden opportunity to pound the Rethugs, but the only sound we will hear is the squishing of soiled underpants as they run, quaking in fear, of David Broder.

Oh, what a miserable disaster this country has become.

Posted by: rrk1 on September 21, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's just more republican blather. Their only purpose is to make sure Obama fails at everything attempted no matter who, what or how it hurts the nation. It's only about causing "Obama Failure"...the rest of the rhetoric is just a distraction from their real motives.

Snowe and the rest knew they would filibuster this long before it ever left committee...no matter what they or the legislation said.

We are witnessing the destruction of America by its minority. The senate is no longer a function of American democracy.

Posted by: bjobotts on September 21, 2010 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, the party of GWB doesn't like gay people! Also, pigs can't really fly and poison is harmful to ingest! Lady GoGo isn't all that after all!

Posted by: Trollop on September 21, 2010 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bombing people in an illegal, not to mention stupid, war, makes you a hero?
Okaaayyy.

Posted by: HMDK on September 22, 2010 at 5:47 AM | PERMALINK

My senator voted for cloture (actually both, but I mean Webb).

Yah! God's will is done.

Posted by: Lance on September 22, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK
Snowe and the rest knew they would filibuster this long before it ever left committee...no matter what they or the legislation said.

Yep. I can't help wondering what cave people have been living in that they're shocked and appalled that Republican senators reversed themselves like they've done every single time a vote comes up for the past two years.

I especially love how it's Reid's fault for being so mean. After all, just because Collins and Snowe have voted against every single other piece of legislation on ridiculously flimsy grounds is no reason to believe they would vote against this one. Especially not 6 weeks before an election that has the teabaggers out in force.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on September 22, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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