Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 9, 2010

AT THE INTERSECTION OF BIGOTRY AND COWARDICE.... The dust has not yet settled, and the reasons behind the Senate's failure to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this afternoon are still coming into focus. But we know a few things with some certainty.

The first is that a 40-member Senate minority -- 39 Republicans and one Democrat -- blew off the appeals of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs about an issue of great importance to the U.S. military. A clear majority of Americans support repeal; a clear majority of the men and women in uniform are on board with repeal; and clear majorities of the House and Senate have voted to support repeal.

Republicans still blocked it. This isn't just a situation in which they just chose to vote against a proposal -- they feel so strongly about this, they wouldn't even let the Senate vote up or down on the defense authorization bill, legislation that funds the military during two wars, and includes a provision to give U.S. troops a raise.

And what was driving such intense opposition? For senators like John McCain (R-Ariz.) and most of his GOP allies, it appears to be matter of not liking gay people.

For senators like Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), it's about putting procedure above people. They'd like to do the right thing, but it's more important to get a certain kind of legislative debate.

These Republicans' message to gay servicemen and women, who volunteer to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us, in effect, is, "We'd like to protect you from pointless discrimination, but Senate procedure matters more."

For what it's worth, soon after the vote failed -- which is to say, soon after a 57-member majority featuring Democratic, Republican, and Independent votes was deemed insufficient -- Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced they'd introduce a free-standing bill that would repeal DADT. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would co-sponsor the measure.

The plan, at least for now, is to bring it to bypass the committee process and try to bring this to the floor in the lame-duck session. Of course, potential GOP supporters may get into yet another fight over amendments and floor time, and given the calendar, there may not be time to squeeze this bill into the schedule.

Postscript: For those inclined to blame President Obama for Senate Republicans defeating repeal today, spare me. The White House clearly pushed for repeal, and did everything possible to use the Pentagon's report last week to apply the necessary pressure to deliver. By most counts, there really are 60 votes to make repeal a reality, and that's the case because President Obama has helped take the lead on the issue. If you're looking to blame someone, I'd start with 40 senators who filibustered today.

Steve Benen 5:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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The behavior of the GOP minority in the Senate has been disgusting beyond all observable limits over the past two years. But never more so than today. Given a choice between their unquenchable lust for power and doing right by their country and countrymen, power will win out every damn time with these people--our country be damned. 'Twas ever thus.

Posted by: TT on December 9, 2010 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't Democratic leaders succintly and articulately express substantive points of view in light of the Republicans' recalcitrance?

Well, Ted Kennedy is dead!

Why do Democratic leaders insist on allowing the Republicans the narrative of no?

Well, duck and cover seems to be the leadership style of our Demcoratic congressional critters!

Are these Democrats of the early 21st century merely neophytes when it comes to exercising the power of the gavel?

Well, yes if one is to look back at the last two years!

WTF Democrats, I'm tired of your complaining. Get up and begin the fight, if nothing else, to demand the national narrative return to a focus on the middle class, instead of whether millionaires and billionaires need more yachts and private islands to sail them to! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 9, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Seconded. In fact, you could go as far as to say that without the unprecedented filibuster abuse perpetrated by Senate Republicans, Obama would have gleefully passed scads more popular legislation, the economy would be in much better shape, unemployment vastly lower, and statues of him would be under construction all over the Capital even well prior to his landslide 2012 victory.

Hey, wait a minute ...

Posted by: jsacto on December 9, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

SO The DADT repeal failed. The best revenge? Boys, seduce a male soldier. Girls, seduce a female soldier. Can't find a soldier? Go to your local used clothing store buy a military style jacket and go to a gay bar. Sex is the best weapon here, drives Republicans crazy.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 9, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to hijack a thread but here is a headline I just saw on the internet.

Unemployment Extensions Denied as House Democrats Reject White House Compromise

If the House Democrats don't vote for the compromise bill I suspect Democrats are going to be blamed for all manner of crap by our friends in the media.

Right now a lot of congressmen and women are just showing off.

Pass the DAMM BILL.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 9, 2010 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

How much longer must we be held hostage by arcane senate rules and obstructionists republicans. The tyranny of the minority. The senate is no longer a democratic branch of government. McCain is just pathetic...wrong on everything...always...Should have been thrown out of government long ago. Just pathetic.

Posted by: bjobotts on December 9, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

actually one could criticize Obama for not pushing DADT reform when the Dems had the 60 votes and it could have sailed through. He was passive, and waited, and now we see what happened.

Of course the Rethuglicans are much more at fault but the President could have done better.

Posted by: bw on December 9, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I've got two words for Harry Reid and the Dems: "Nukular Option." Thank you.

Posted by: krazeeinjun on December 9, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

DADT is blatantly unconstitutional, or would be in a country that honored the idea of equal protection. The US, alas, does not. We prefer the mythologies of bigots and cynics to the core principles of this nation. Let's put McCain's disfigured mug on a $3 bill to show what's happening to America. If nothing else, the Teabaggers who now have a man crush on St John could felate themselves to sleep every night by looking at one.

Posted by: walt on December 9, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I've got two words for Harry Reid and the Dems: "Nukular Option." Thank you.

My back up plan is to shoot the entire GOP caucus into the sun.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 9, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Hessville T on December 9, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

What, even with Liz Cheney pulling for repeal ...

Posted by: neil b on December 9, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think the last few months have been a learning experience for our young President. I don't think I am going to write him off just yet.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 9, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Don't Y'all get it?

The radical extremist republicans/Fascists could never get elected on their miserable failure record so they use the hot button emotional issues such as Gays, Abortion, Illegal Immigration, African Americans, Muslims, etc.. to radicalize the haters, the unconscious, and the mentally lazy to garner votes.

The Fascist republicans will never get rid of their bread and butter hot button emotional issues because they know if those issues are eliminated they will never get elected.

Posted by: ghostcommander on December 9, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I DO NOT blame Obama for the obstruction of the Republicans or even losing a few battles. And, a lot has been done in the last two years - but his majorities were large and he should have gotten lots done.

I blame Obama for not using the 60 vote majority for things like this.

I blame Obama for not actively campaigning to keep Kennedy's seat in the Dem category.

I blame Obama for compromising before a fight begins instead of fighting for the best possible outcome.

Now he's nearly lost his base (people like me). I believe that if he is a wimp in the SOTU Address, his presidency is over. I expect a large part of this Address should be using the biggest pulpit on the planet to highlight IN GREAT DETAIL what the Republicans have been up to. It's about the only way the average lug will ever hear it.

Posted by: Mark-NC on December 9, 2010 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah Mark-NC...He should use the SOTU to bitch about the GOP. Like he did LAST year? Like he blasted the SUPREMES, LAST year? Voters and clearly the Dems have no long term memory. A sound bite? Cool. Real POLICY? Nope no time.

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 9, 2010 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

"If you're looking to blame someone, I'd start with 40 senators who filibustered today."


But mark your calendars for January 5th. That's the day that the new Senate Democratic majority has it in the power to reform the filibuster (and Senate holds) for the next Congress. If they fail to do so, then woe be unto them.

Posted by: Chris on December 9, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think John McCain might now deserve a second ammendment remedy. I believe Mitch McConnell could use one too. Anybody else secretly wishing this?

Posted by: Deadly Trollop on December 9, 2010 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK


Is there some remaining pressing business that Reid can't get done if a filibuster is going on? Why couldn't Reid pass all remaining non-controversial legislation, clear the calendar, and tell the GOP to have at it? Let them go home for Christmas once there was an up or down vote on DADT.

Enough is enough. I am sick of Senators who are too lazy to stick around and do their jobs blaming the minority.

If Reid doesn't like the filibuster rule, he should have changed it at the beginning of Congress. He didn't want to. So live with it. The GOP wants to "debate" DADT? Fine. Debate it. Then vote. Then pass it. Then go home. Anything less is cowardice and weakness.

Posted by: square1 on December 9, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Another reason for the President to share the blame -- he insisted on waiting for the Defense Department report.

See: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/12/09/28393?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BoxTurtleBulletin+%28Box+Turtle+Bulletin%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Posted by: bw on December 9, 2010 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

^^Exactly, bw. Obama has been weak on the issue and could have done plenty more.

I'll be damned if I'll be an Obama apologist and am disappointed to see Mr. Benen take that role as of late.

Posted by: Troma on December 9, 2010 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Mark-NC, Obama is done. Stick a fork in him.

I'm not saying that a president who has been knocked down couldn't use the SOTU to bounce back. I'm saying that Obama has foreclosed all avenues for counter-attack.

He can't call for more stimulus. He's already stabbed Keynesianism in the back and thrown his lot in with the supply-siders. He can't bash the banks. His FinReg efforts were to preserve the TBTF status quo. He can't bash the GOP over unemployment. He just cut a deal.

He is done. Time to move on and find someone that might stave off a wingnut in 2012.

Posted by: square1 on December 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

The degree to which the blame attaches to President Obama is that he didn't push the Senate to hold the vote when there was a filibuster-proof majority behind it. He decided instead to wait for the cover provided by the military survey.

My guess is this is dead until the next time the Democrats control the House.

Posted by: aphrael on December 9, 2010 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

The big headline, the story burning up every cable news show right now should be: "Obama issues executive order ending DADT." That's how you play the game. He should have issued the executive order the instant the Senate killed repeal.

Repealing DADT isn't a vital issue right now. It won't bring jobs, or boost the economy, but it's the one issue that the President could have by-passed congress and issued an executive order...Truman did!

Once again the GOP has slapped him in the face and laughed, and he took it. He said in his cringe-inducing ppress conference that the american people don't want a protracted fight...OH YES WE DO! WE WANT A HUGE FIGHT! We want someone to stand up to these criminals once and for all...and he isn't doing it.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 9, 2010 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

that's because an executive order can't repeal DADT.

an executive order can only suspend it.

DADT is a congressional act.

bloggers are really, really retarded.

Posted by: Logic on December 9, 2010 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

"an executive order can only suspend it"

SUSPEND it and let's see anyone try to reinstate it. It would never happen. That would mean not a witch hunt, but a bloodbath in the military, open and in public, and NO ONE would ever go there. If he suspended it..it would end it, plain and simple. Congress would quietly and uneventfully repeal it on their own.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 9, 2010 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Just one question: How much had to be trimmed in the Senate from the legislation that WAS passed to get it passed?
And I'm NOT referring to Republicans...

Posted by: Doug on December 9, 2010 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

SUSPEND it and let's see anyone try to reinstate it.
I was right, bloggers are really, really retarded.

Posted by: Logic on December 9, 2010 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obama NEVER HAD 60 votes in favor of ending DADT in the Senate. There were always blue dog Democrats that would have voted against repeal before the DoD report came out. The difference between the conservaDems and the Republifreaks is that the conservaDems really did change their position when the report supported ending DADT.

As for those who say they are so disgusted with Obama, he can't possibly win them back, did you sleep through the last 8 years? Do you really think that things can't get a LOT, LOT worse with Republicans in charge again?

Posted by: tanstaafl on December 9, 2010 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, something is messed up with vote counting. It is reported that 57 voted yes. But Reid and Manchin voted no. And Lincoln missed vote.

Posted by: Square1 on December 9, 2010 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

One more time, could the Dems please, please pick some bill with great emotional appeal, force a Republican filibuster and then make them pay for it? Why is this so damn hard to do?

Why does Reid and the rest cave. Make them filibuster.

Posted by: JohnN on December 9, 2010 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

If you're looking to blame someone, I'd start with 40 senators who filibustered today.

You can throw the 3 no-shows in that lot too. A no-show is the same as a no in this case.

Posted by: blank on December 9, 2010 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

For senators like Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), it's about putting procedure above people. They'd like to do the right thing, but it's more important to get a certain kind of legislative debate.

No, let's be clear about this. It has nothing to do with procedure. It's about making bullshit excuses for doing something cowardly and bigoted in order to stave off potential primary challenges from wingnuts.

The only role procedure played in Scott Brown's vote is as a talking point to deflect attention from his appeasement of Southern bigots, which might alienate moderate voters in Massachusetts if anyone in the media bothered to call him out on the carpet for this.

Posted by: LaFollette Progressive on December 9, 2010 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

One more time, could the Dems please, please pick some bill with great emotional appeal, force a Republican filibuster and then make them pay for it? Why is this so damn hard to do?

I hope and suspect that someone else will come along to explain exactly why this particular oft-repeated point is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the filibuster works. Its been a long night and I don't really feel like getting into it now. Suffice to say for the moment that this is wrong and all of the reasons why, I am sure, are readily available via any modern search engine.

But even if it were correct, the push for this sort of tactic assumes a kind of prioritization that just doesn't exist in the Senate. Yes, most Senators support repeal, but I doubt that they would be willing to sacrifice their own on the legislative calendar to fight for it exclusively which is what would be required. There are few causes for which a majority of Senators would be willing to put everything else on hold indefinitely, and this is just not one of them.

Really it is a moot point anyway. The filibuster rule just doesn't work that way.

Posted by: brent on December 10, 2010 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Quack quack, Scott Brown. You're 2012's first Republican sitting duck.

Massachusetts deserves a real senator. Not even an endorsement from Sarah Palin will save you.

See you on Dancing With the Stars.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 10, 2010 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK

To reiterate what tanstaafl said, the only thing that has gotten people like Webb as far on DADT as he's been is that survey of the military and a chance for the military to plan ahead for repeal. That's who needed "cover" for repealing DADT: conservative Democrats who didn't want to vote for a stand-alone "social engineering" gays-in-the-military bill, but _would_ vote for a Defense Authorization Bill that included DADT repeal _after_ being carefully reassured that both leadership and rank-and-file of the military were not averse to it.

Or, to be brief, without the study, no chance in hell that DADT repeal would happen.

Hey, remember when everyone was sure that the point of the study was to return a negative response so that they wouldn't have to go ahead with it, and that the questions had been written to give homophobes a veto?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 10, 2010 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

To her credit, although it did not change anything, Senator Claire McCaskill spent a long time on the Republican side of the aisle pleading with Senator Collins. One could tell from her body and hand language that she was really working Collins. Finally, Collins held up her hand and changed her vote to Yea.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2010 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK
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