Yesterday Senate Democrats failed to garner enough votes to invoke cloture and prevent Republicans from filibustering a defense bill with several liberal riders, including a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Dream Act, which would pave the way for illegal immigrants with college degrees or military service to gain citizenship.
The bill was the last real chance Dems had of repealing DADT before the lame duck session or, even worse, the next congress, which could be controlled by the GOP and would therefore likely be hostile toward the measure.
Republicans noted yesterday that their opposition was generally not toward repealing the ban itself, but rather Democrats achieving a repeal by tacking it on to a defense spending bill. John McCain criticized the “blatant and cynical attempt to galvanize the Hispanic vote in regards to the DREAM Act, and also energize the gay and lesbian vote in the case of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Obviously we need a defense authorization bill. We need one very badly, and I hope that at some point we’ll address it.”
Gay rights groups, however, have placed plenty of blame on Barack Obama, Politico notes.
“We haven’t noticed any activism on this issue out of the White House at all,” said Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United. “It just goes to show what we’ve suspected all along: the White House never supported moving forward on this issue…..and was backed into a corner and jumped on the train as it was leaving the station.”
The New York Times is particularly damning of the 43 senators who voted to filibuster.
The two parties clashed on the number of amendments that Republicans could offer. Republicans wanted to add dozens of amendments, an obvious delaying tactic, while Democrats tried to block all but their own amendments. In an earlier time, the two sides might have reached an agreement on a limited number of amendments, but not in this Senate, and certainly not right before this election, when everyone’s blood is up even more than usual. …
History will hold to account every member of Congress who refused to end this blatant injustice.
The Washington Post declares “fairness will have to wait.”
In the end, both sides may have gotten what they wanted. Democrats can argue in campaign ads and rallies over the next several weeks that Republicans blocked funding for the troops in a spiteful move to prevent fairness in the military. Republicans can just as easily blame Democrats for sabotaging the defense bill by clinging tightly to an extreme liberal agenda. The only losers? Common sense, fairness for gay and lesbian service members and the rational policy of making the best use of all Americans who want to help defend the country.
Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis tears apart both sides of the aisle.
There’s election year politics going on over this issue on both sides of the aisle, of course. After all, the Democrats could, and should, have kept the immigration bill separate from a bill dealing with the budget for the Department of Defense. Republicans, on the other hand, are resting their opposition to proceeding forward on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the phony issue of a Joint Chiefs of Staff study that is concerned not with whether to repeal the rule, but how that repeal will be implemented once it becomes law. Considering that the language of the repeal specifically says it doesn’t go into effect until after the study is completed, the objections of Senators like John McCain on that ground are entirely without merit.
The Human Rights Campaign, however, remains positive and forward-thinking.
“We are in fact quite bullish that it can get done in the lame duck. It has to get done,” said HRC spokesman Fred Sainz. “Today’s loss was because of a lack of time on the amendments process. Senator Reid has no way to get the bill off the floor if he didn’t limit the number of amendments. We are very hopeful that both parties can find a way to introduce amendments and get repeal passed.”
Ed O’Keefe over at The Washington Post agreed with the HRC’s optimistic outlook.
Gay rights advocates vowed to keep pressure on the Senate, with some believing they will have enough votes to end the ban if senators votes on the compromise in December. Several moderate Republicans have said they would vote to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” only after they review a Pentagon study of how repealing the ban might impact troop readiness and morale. The study is due to President Obama and senior military leaders on Dec. 1.
As usual, the Pentagon is being tight-lipped: “We have no comment on the legislative process. This was an internal procedural matter for the Senate.”
It’s still not clear how much time DADT has left on the judicial side. Earlier this month a federal judge in California declared the 1993 policy unconstitutional. The suit’s plaintiffs, the Log Cabin Republicans, asked the judge to issue an injunction banning DADT-based discharges; the Department of Justice must respond to that request this week. In the wake of the Senate defeat, the HRC is asking the DOJ not to appeal the ruling.