DADT Senate Vote: All Eyes on Republicans Collins and Snowe
September 21, 2010
(ChattahBox Political News)—The repeal of the discriminatory military policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” may rest on a critical Senate procedural vote scheduled to take place at 2:30 this afternoon. An amendment to repeal the onerous policy was tacked on to the defense appropriations bill, by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV). But Republicans plan to filibuster the entire defense bill that includes pay raises for soldiers, to ensure the DADT measure doesn’t even reach the senate floor for debate. The 59-member Democratic caucus needs 60 votes to overcome the Republican filibuster to hold a vote, but as of this writing, they don’t have them. All eyes are now on the moderate Republican senators from Maine, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, as well as Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). But so far, all three senators are expected to vote with their Party, despite the fact that Sens. Brown and Collins voted to move the defense bill containing the DADT measure out of committee.
Sen. Collins supports the repeal of DADT, but she released a statement this morning objecting to the procedural conditions tacked on to the defense bill limiting the number of amendments to the three proposed by Sen. Reid. Besides the repeal of DADT, Reid is adding the DREAM Act, which would grant a path to citizenship for undocumented minors brought to the country illegally by their parents as children. The young people would be required to attend a U.S. college for two years or join the military. The Republican caucus is opposed to the DREAM act, calling it an amnesty bill that rewards illegal immigration.
Reid is also proposing an amendment to ban secret holds on legislation and nominations; a practice that has been abused by Republican senators, leaving hundreds of President Obama’s nominees in limbo.
Collins is inclined to join her colleagues in a filibuster, unless Reid permits the Republicans to tack on as many amendments as they want. Snowe is on the fence, but unlike Collins, she opposes the repeal of the DADT policy, at least until the Pentagon’s assessment is completed.
Sen. John McCain R-AZ) is leading the charge against the DADT measure, complaining a repeal should not be legislated until the Pentagon completes its survey of our armed forces on December 1.
Gay rights activists are watching today’s vote very closely. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network organized a repeal DADT rally in Portland, Maine headlined by pop star Lady Gaga, to exert pressure on the state’s senators Collins and Snowe to break away from their party and allow the measure to come to the floor for a vote.
So far, Lady Gaga’s influence has not worked to change the mind of Collins and Snowe, nor of Scott Brown.
The DADT policy was struck down by a federal court as unconstitutional earlier in the month. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled the policy not only violated the First Amendment, but it had a “direct and deleterious effect’’ on the military.
As a reminder, the Republicans are planning to stage a filibuster, to stop the defense authorization bill from even coming to the floor for an up-or-down vote, because they object to the repeal of DADT. During a time of two wars, the Republican caucus is perfectly willing to play games with defense spending.