In and issue that has pitted a younger generation Lady Gaga against the 2010 talk show political culture incarnation of former moderate/maverick Senator John McCain, Congress will today take up repealing today the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell gays in the military policy — and it’s likely to die in a filibuster.
In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama repeated a campaign-trail promise to the gay community.
By the end of the year, Mr. Obama said, he would seek a full repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars gay, lesbian and transgender people from serving openly in the armed forces.
The president called it a “law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” and he said repealing it was “the right thing to do.”
The promise faces a critical test today as supporters of the current policy say they will try to filibuster military defense policy legislation that allows the repeal. With midterm elections just six weeks away, a unified Republicans filibuster would likely mean a delay in fulfilling the president’s pledge until next year.
Opponents of an unrelated immigration measure included in the annual defense authorization bill are also vowing to filibuster, increasing the odds that both issues will be put off.
If the Democrats can’t muster 60 votes to cut off debate, the delay on “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be a blow to gay activists, members of a key White House constituency who fear that next year’s Congress will be less sympathetic to a repeal of the 17-year-old ban. The policy was enacted during President Bill Clinton’s first term.
And it would serve as another source of frustration for those who do not think Mr. Obama is moving quickly enough to make good on key promises, including a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and passage of legislation to ban discrimination against gays in hiring.
In fact on several fronts, there are rumblings that it’s most likely to wither via filibuster than pass today. For instance, it’s hinging on the votes of the Senate’s vanshing species called “moderates” — who can go either way. The Politico:
Gay rights and immigration reform advocates mounted a last-ditch effort Monday to overcome an expected Republican filibuster of a defense authorization bill that could lead to a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
All eyes were on a few moderate Republicans who might be able to get Democrats to the 60 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor in a vote scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Backers of the bill held out slightly more hope for the measure Monday than late last week, when many viewed the legislation as a lost cause — but Democrats made clear they didn’t know how the vote would turn out.
“I don’t know whether we have the votes or not,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan told reporters. “I haven’t done a whip check. I just don’t know if the votes are there.”
The stakes for the Democrats are high, with key provisions on the table for two important constituencies ahead of midterm elections, in which they’re already in danger of losing the House and conceivably even the Senate.
Even before the vote, gay rights activists, in particular, made it clear that there would be recriminations against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal doesn’t go forward — a pledge Obama made throughout his 2008 campaign. And immigration-rights activists say they’re watching how both parties handle Tuesday’s vote as well.
Last night, I learned from a very credible source that the White House isn’t lobbying on the Defense Authorization bill. They’re not trying to get to 60 votes. The President and Vice President aren’t making calls. The White House legislative team isn’t working the halls of the Senate. Nothing. People on the Hill are well aware of this. It sends a signal. Has anyone, not just Senators, anyone, heard a word about the Defense bill from Obama?
Think about it: The GOP Senators are filibustering a defense bill, which includes support for the troops, while we’re engaged in two wars. Yet, we haven’t heard a peep from Obama about that. If the situation were reversed, I don’t think a Republican President would sit idly by and miss an opportunity to bash the other side for not supporting the troops. Bush did it every time.
So, the key vote that could set us on a path to ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will happen today. We’ve waited a long time for this. A lot of promises were made to the LGBT community, included an end to DADT.
…..Clearly, we did not get the support from the White House that we should have expected — based on the promises made by the President. But, we’ll need to remember this next year when Jim Messina is the campaign manager for the Obama reelection and comes asking for our time, our money and our votes.
It’s going to be a historic day — one way or the other.
In a sense, adding this to the context of other problems the White House and Democrats face — having this policy come up for a vote a time when the Democratic Party’s and Barack Obama’s clout are waning and on the verge of waning even more — is one more thunderous cloudburst in a perfect political storm.
*** Senate showdown: It’s still unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the 60 votes needed to start debate on the defense authorization bill that includes the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” NBC’s Ken Strickland reports. The vote on “the motion to proceed” is at 2:15 pm ET. On policy, Republicans say Congress should not repeal the ban until the military has completed it’s review of repealing DADT. Strick adds that’s an objection that one of the swing votes — Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) — expressed yesterday. Snowe and her state colleague, Susan Collins, are viewed as critical for Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to proceed. (That’s why Lady Gaga held a rally yesterday in Maine.) The other GOP objection is one of politics. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have complained that Reid plans to attach an immigration measure to the defense bill — the Dream Act — that would give young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they graduate from high school or serve in the U.S. military.
If it passes expect some big political fallout — and if it doesn’t pass expect some big political fallout.
But the bottom line is this: Democratic clout is waning and Republican clout in light of poll numbers is on the ascent. Can a filibuster be overcome in this climate?