Big DADT update. Are Reid and Collins helping or hurting on DADT?

Posted on 08 Dec 2010 at 3:44pm

Things are moving fast on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here is the latest.

1. It appears that the President is finally engaged. Joe and I have heard from our sources on the Hill, and reporters have also heard, that the President is in fact calling members of the Senate, including Republicans, on behalf of the DADT compromise. I hope I don’t eat my words on this, but this appears to be good news, and is most welcome and necessary.

2. There’s some debate as to whether Harry Reid or Susan Collins are playing fairly or playing games.

First Reid. While there are reports that Senator Reid is talking about bringing DADT up for a vote this afternoon – it would in fact be a vote to break the GOP filibuster of the underlying defense bill, and then we’d have a vote on a possible filibuster of DADT itself (actually several votes are likely). The concern is whether we yet have the 60 votes we need to break the filibuster, and thus whether it’s wise to move forward with a vote. While some might argue that a vote is always a good thing, as it’s good to get Senators on the record for where they stand on the issue, and that is sometimes correct (as it calls the bluff of those saying they’ll vote “no”), often times you really don’t want to hold a vote you’re going to lose. A losing vote can cause Senators to walk away from future votes, arguing that they shouldn’t be wasting time and forcing them to make difficult votes on something that isn’t going to pass anyway.

(I know the usual apologists are promoting the notion that per se it’s a good thing to bring DADT up for a vote, regardless of what happens. That’s a lie. And they know it. But they’re apologists, who are either trying to get clients, or curry favor for their next job. Look at their track record of defending the administration on this process over the last two years, and on things like the DOMA incest/pedophilia brief – then ignore them.)

So, the concern overall would be whether Senator Reid is calling the vote to simply show that “he tried,” regardless of whether we lose.

Now to Susan Collins. There is growing concern that she’s playing us, which would be unfortunate. Collins has been saying that she wants ample time to debate the bill and offer amendments. And that’s a fair request. But just how much time, and how many amendments, does Senator Collins want? No one knows. You can’t have unlimited debate, because that’s called a filibuster – and surely Senator Collins isn’t proposing that we just let folks filibuster the Defense bill, because we know John McCain, among others, would do just that. You have to have a set number of days and/or amendments that are limited in time and scope, or the bill will go on forever. So what would Senator Colins find acceptable? Again, no one seems to know.

Senator Reid has reportedly offered Collins a total of 15 amendments, 10 for Republicans and 5 for Democrats. That sounds awfully fair, especially giving the GOP twice as many amendments as our side gets. We’re hearing that Collins won’t accept this. Historically, look how many amendments there were on this bill in the past few years:

Last year, there were 11 votes total, with 6 Republican amendments.

In 2008, there were 2 votes total, one per side.

In 2007, when there were 22 amendment votes, Republicans received 10 of those votes.

Looking at that history, 15 sounds awfully fair, and giving two thirds of the amendments to the GOP is downright unprecedented in its generosity, for recent times.

Is is possible that Senator Collins is being an honest broker here? Absolutely. But to prove she’s being honest, she needs to tell us what specifically she wants, in terms of amendments and time spent on the bill, so we can judge whether she is trying to save DADT repeal, or whether she is trying to kill set back our civil rights struggle. Her answer, or lack thereof, will speak volumes.

Let’s hope she wants to be a hero.

PS More from Sam Stein, who reports there’s some talk about putting the defense bill, sans DADT it would seem, into a continuing resolution. They’d better not dare.




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