Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 18, 2010

DEMS SET STAGE FOR DADT SHOWDOWN IN DECEMBER.... As recently as last week, there was quite a bit of talk about Senate Democrats caving on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal. Leaders knew they have to pass the military spending bill (the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA), and if Republicans were prepared to kill the measure over DADT, Dems looked like they'd blink first.

This week, there's been a shift in the other direction. President Obama has reportedly been working the phones, urging "dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle" to approve the spending bill just as it is, leaving the repeal language intact.

By late yesterday, the Senate leadership announced it's not caving, setting the stage for a December showdown

In a direct challenge to Republicans who support the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he would push ahead with a military policy bill that includes language authorizing the Pentagon to repeal the ban. [...]

[T]he White House on Wednesday repeated President Obama's commitment to repealing the ban. In a statement later in the day, Mr. Reid said he would bring the bill to the floor, with the repeal language in place. "We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so," Mr. Reid said.

Senate Democratic aides said Mr. Reid would try to take up the bill sometime in December, meaning after the Pentagon is due to release a report on how it would carry out a repeal. The report includes a survey of active-duty forces and their families, which shows that a majority do not care if gay men and women serve openly.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who supports DADT repeal but was rumored to be in talks to concede to Republican demands, applauded Reid's announcement. Levin will hold (hopefully brief) hearings on the Pentagon survey immediately after its release, to be followed by a floor vote on the overall spending bill.

The trick, of course, will be getting to 60, since Senate Republicans, led by leading anti-gay Sen. John McCain, won't allow the chamber to vote on troop funding if the DADT provision remains in the bill. Making matters slightly worse, by the time of the vote, the Senate will be split 58-42 in Dems' favor, instead of the current 59-41, meaning the majority will need two Republicans to break ranks, not just one.

On that front, the key will be Reid's willingness to have an extended debate. Greg Sargent reported yesterday that a handful of Senate Republicans would be willing to help Dems overcome a filibuster if the majority leadership allows Republicans to offer a series of amendments -- a move that could take two weeks out of an already-brief lame-duck session.

With that in mind, the Washington Post reported today, "In a key concession to moderate Republicans seeking a fair debate on the measure, Reid is expected to allow senators of both parties to offer amendments to the bill, aides said. The move could lead to the support of at least some senators who have said they would vote to end the ban if Reid permits them to offer amendments."

It seems a little foolish to think moderate Republicans would kill troop funding and allow DADT discrimination to continue based on a procedural dispute over unknown legislative amendments, but that's apparently the dynamic we're dealing with.

All it will take, then, is two Republicans willing to do the right thing.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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It'll be interesting to see how strongly the Senate GOPer leadership whips this vote.

Posted by: jhm on November 18, 2010 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

I feel a Lucy-Charlie Brown scenario coming on.

Anything to chew up a couple of weeks of a lame duck session.

Posted by: pol on November 18, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

It seems a little foolish to think moderate Republicans would kill troop funding and allow DADT discrimination to continue based on a procedural dispute over unknown legislative amendments . . .

Republicans would kill anything Obama wanted merely because the vote was held on a day of the week ending in 'Y'.

And don't go all Joe Miller on us yet. With DINOs like Ben Nelson leading the way, there will be plenty of of opportunities for the Democratic "leadership" to capitulate before this is over.

Posted by: SteveT on November 18, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

So what will happen is: we'll have two weeks of meaningless debate over pointless amendments, then McCain will throw another tantrum and Collins, decrying the partisan atmosphere, will support the filibuster. Resulting in no DADT repeal, but also (sorry, we ran out of time!) no START ratification, no vote on DREAM, no approval for Diamond, and an extension of all the Bush tax cuts (they'll somehow find time for that).

The Senate is very, very predictable.

Posted by: Basilisc on November 18, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Good move. Better late than never. Either the nihilists cave in, showing they're paper tigers. Or they show their balls - and hopefully the public will recognize the obscenity.

But of course there are still bigots like Ben Nelson who are easily willing to embarrass the democratic caucus once again.

Posted by: Vokoban on November 18, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

"All it will take, then, is two Republicans willing to do the right thing."

Time to deploy the Republican talking points: "Treason! Traitor! Hates America! Doesn't support the troops in time of war!"

I'd even use that oldie but goodie from the HUAC years, "Have you no shame, senator?"

Posted by: DAY on November 18, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the word "foolish" means what you think it means.

It would be very foolish for moderate Republicans to vote against cloture, because Reid didn't give them the floor time, praise and general flattery they require.

It would be even more foolish for anyone who has been paying attention to doubt that they are perfectly willing to place their egos above their perceptions of the public interest.

The few moderate Republican senators are senators and, in our system of government, nothing is as important as the vanity of a senator.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on November 18, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

"All it will take, then, is two Republicans willing to do the right thing."

An AMAZINGLY high hurdle!

Posted by: Mark-NC on November 18, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

the Senate leadership announced it's not caving

Well, there's a refreshing change. Let's see if anything actually comes of it.

Posted by: Gregory on November 18, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Good for Reid. Imagine what the Dems in the Senate could have accomplished over the last two years if they had played hardball on healthcare or the economy. Instead of peeing their pants at the very threat of a fillibuster, or pursuing "bipartisan cooperation" with GOPers who have no interest in governing, they could have screamed bloody murder about the Republicans obstructionist tactics. Reid should have been forcing the GOP do mount real fillibusters on everything, rather than just caving in each time.

Posted by: Shrillhouse on November 18, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

This isn't going to happen because it's "the right thing to do" or because people turn out to be decent; Democrats are way too convinced of the nobility of the things they believe in.... which is nice, but doesn't get the job done. Of course gay people deserve fairness; that hasn't stopped a lot of people from doing otherwise, across time.

If this deal holds - and I'd say that's a big "if" - then Republicans get some fig leaf option to sound really unhappy... and let it pass. Given some of the more diehard antigay voices on the right, I doubt that will seem acceptable... which makes me think there's another buyout or deal behind the scenes that will account for passage, if it happens. Whatever that deal is... I hope it turns out to be worth it.

Posted by: weboy on November 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Why do Republicans feel confident they can filibuster a defense appropriations' bill? That's the real scandal and it points out, once again, how the Culture War essentially relieves Republicans of ordinary conscience and the requirement for behaving in good faith. They will suffer no penalty for "endangering the troops". If the shoe were on the other foot, Democrats would be slimed from here to eternity. This is why the odds are so long on DADT repeal. It's why politics can't be separated from the tribalized politics of 21st century America. White people love America and the "others" don't.

Posted by: walt on November 18, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Again, say it with me:

The Republicans and Conservatives will not allow Obama a win on ANYTHING.

Blaming Democrats for "not supporting the troops" will be the meme. Truth has not mattered for many years now. And Republicans will win.

That is, until and unless Democrats, including Obama, get out of Washington and go directly to the people and educate them about what's going on. Continuously. Stridently. Forcefully. By calling them out and making the clear connections between what conservatives say and what conservatives do. That may not work, but the current dynamic definitely isn't working, so why not give it a shot?

Posted by: terraformer on November 18, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK


There, I fixed your headline, Steve. BTW, Republicans voted against a troop funding bill earlier this year and paid no penalty at all. Everything's Okay If You're A Republican.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on November 18, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

All it will take, then, is two Republicans willing to do the right thing.


Oh stop, you're killing me.


Oh, gawd, my sides hurt...


Tears rolling down my face...

Posted by: efgoldman on November 18, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK
All it will take, then, is two Republicans willing to do the right thing.
Those days are long gone. As the saying goes, if my uncle had tits, he'd be my aunt. Those two Republicans don't exist, either.

Posted by: Rathskeller on November 18, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Two Republicans?! I doubt they'll get the sixty eight Democrats they need.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 18, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Either Reid is going to get rolled, again, by delay, pointless debate, lying, and ultimately, failure, or he thinks he has some "committment" from Snowe, Collins, Lugar ? - and the question will be how much pressure McConnell will bring to bear on the R traitors, and when will they buckle, thereby defeating the effort and outfoxing the dems. Right around Dec 15 we will then see the R's claiming that " Dems are rising our ENTIRE SECURITY APPARATUS FOR A FEW GODAMN GAYS AND WE NEED TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK. And the dems will cave. Again. And will have pissed away 2 weeks of a lame duck session.

Posted by: bigutah on November 18, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Now is the time for the professional DADT advocates to unchain themselves from the Whitehouse fence and march down to President McCain's office. There they should stage a protest every day until the vote. Put pressure on any senator, especially any Republican senator, who so much as peeps that he is opposed to repelling DADT.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 18, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Hopefully I can convey my point without going all technical (since the terms and process confuse me) but haven't we been dealing for some time now with the issue that bills can't even make it to the senate floor for discussion and amendments because of Rethug procedural moves that prevent it? And they have agreed to keep their powder dry to allow them to make their case and take a vote on this one? WTF? Why wouldn't they simply refuse to allow a bill that contains DADT to be discussed since any discussion on their part has got to be moronic? Besides, we all know the Donkeys will cave. Can they present a bill without DADT then have someone add a DADT amendment and back it up with a majority vote? Then we could at least finally get the obstructionist bastards on record as having voted against it.

Posted by: chopin on November 18, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Could any of the people lamenting how "Dems will cave" please explain to us what the other options are? And I mean REAL options, not the ones you'd like in a fantasy world. Look, we're working with the rules we've got, not the dictatorship you want. There ARE no other options and if Reid didn't agree to this then the bill is dead. Maybe the bill is dead anyway, but at least this is an option.

And for those wondering how Republicans can filibuster a defense appropriations bill while Democrats can't, sorry, but those are the rules of the game and they aren't going to be changed any time soon. Reid doesn't make this stuff up. He's just working it the best he can. And if you don't like it, maybe you should do something about it beyond attacking Democrats for being weak.

And the worst part about this: Obama, Reid, and Democrats will be repeatedly smeared as weak & naive unless they actually get this passed, at which point we'll promptly forget the whole incident and focus on some other issue on which we're "weak," just as we've seen for all the other victories we've had. For some people, there are no Democratic victories; only losses waiting to happen.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on November 18, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The options are simple good Dr. We the progressive base could pitch a fit the media would have to cover. We could shift the discussion away from Obama's apparent unwillingness to use the great powers that go with his position to a shout of what we American really want and need.

I am sick to death of the tea party being the only people who remember the 60s. We need marches and peaceful protests that galvanize the nation to our needs. Don't depend on the corporate media to cover the protests. Depend on word of mouth. We, you and me, and all the internet coffee clatch tea sippers, need to pitch a fit. We want the Senate to work and we want it now. We want the repeal of DADT and we want it now. We want jobs and we want them now. We want our Senators to get off their asses and work for us, and we want it now.

Get the picture. We can't depend on the elected officials with their great health care and big salaries to do anything for us. The President sure has signed he isn't willing to work very hard for us. We need to work for us. We need to pitch a fit.

Did anybody hear what Soros said yesterday? Well, did anybody? Apparently Benen didn't. It was important. It was a call to action.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers - Sorry, but that's just a fantasy you have. There will be no major fits thrown over DADT. The economy is hurting, we're still enmeshed in an endless war, and this is just not a priority for even progressives.

Keeping DADT will annoy people, sure. They'll write angry comments on blogs. They might even call their senator. It would appear that some people stayed home for the elections to "punish" Obama. But that's about it. Most people aren't personally affected by this issue, and they won't do anything concrete or effective about it.

I'm personally in favor of abolishing DADT, but I think you have completely misread the political landscape. No GOP senator will pay any price for blocking DADT. The senators who vote for this on the GOP side have to be self-motivated, and do the right thing because it is correct and proper. People shaking fists online about this might as well be doing so in the clouds of Venus, from the perspective of every Republican Senator.

Posted by: Rathskeller on November 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Progressives win when they get out of WHINE mode and fight. Looking at this board and a few others in recent days, we'll lose this vote and everything else if the whiners keep up their momentum. STFU for a minute and actually fight for what you want against the people that are fighting against you. It's more effective than posting on WashingtonMonthly.com that the Dems are going to cave.

Pressure GOP senators, organize phone campaigns, sign petitions, write to President McCain, Collins and Graham, whatever, but please stop bitching about things that haven't happened and future betrayals that are entirely preventable. You'll feel better winning the fight rather than complaining about losing for the next six, ten or twenty years.

Posted by: danimal on November 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

What danimal said - except, there must be a resource to help people target their efforts. Who are the vulnerable senators? Who are the most likely to be receptive? Collins [wink, wink] ?

Posted by: bigutah on November 18, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ron - I agree COMPLETELY that progressives need to pitch a fit about this, and NOT against Obama and the Democrats. They need to be targeting Republicans and conservative Democrats, not the people on our side who are trying to help us.

Of course, I don't agree with your fantasy-based theory that Obama has any power over this, as he doesn't. But that's the whole reason it was such a mistake to attack him for not doing things that aren't in his power. Attacking Obama only weakens him. That's what I've been saying all along. We need to be directing our energy at the people who are the problem, not attacking Obama for not being a superhero.

Obama has said from the start that this is OUR movement, not his. He got where he did because of us and we need to keep fighting the fight. The election in 2008 was the beginning, not the end of our battle. So please, organize a protest. Write letters to editors. Cause a big stink about this. Just make sure you're targeting the right people. Obama and Reid want to do the right thing. It's our job to make it easier for them by providing them the political cover they need.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on November 18, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'll never understand why people are protesting and heckling Obama and whining about Dems not "fighting" to get this passed when they are then ones who have been trying to get this passed for 2 years. No matter how much screaming and press conferences and telephone calls Obama or the Dems do, in the end they still will need 2 Republicans to stop obstructing everything and vote to end the filibuster.

The sad part is that Republican senators aren't even listening to their own rank-and-file Republican constituents, the majority of whom want DADT repealed.

Posted by: Sam on November 18, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"In a key concession to moderate Republicans seeking a fair debate on the measure, Reid is expected to allow senators of both parties to offer amendments to the bill, aides said. The move could lead to the support of at least some senators who have said they would vote to end the ban if Reid permits them to offer amendments."

Translation: "Kick the football as hard as you can, Charlie Brown. I promise not to pull it away at the last second"

Posted by: Marko on November 18, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

You can't even get the two supposedly moderate female Republican senators to vote for pay equality, so I don't see this happening on this issue. There are no moderate Republicans, just a bloc of mindless partisans.

Posted by: SquareState on November 18, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Collins, Snowe, Lugar, Brown and (?) are the most likely to vote against a filibuster. If I remember the last DA vote correctly, ALL Democrats voted for the bill so that means which two Republicans Senators are going to put their country before their party?
Just a thought, but IF the Republicans renege (I know, I know, that'll NEVER happen), if, as I said, the Republicans SHOULD renege, I'd let the entire NDAA just lie there; if it's not important enough to vote on now, then let it wait until the next session of Congress.
Of course I'm not a Senator, so what I would do really doesn't matter...

Posted by: Doug on November 18, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK
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