Movement on DADT repeal is in the air and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not long ago filed cloture on the stand-alone DADT repeal bill passed on Wednesday by the House and the DREAM Act. The cloture vote will be held on Saturday.
For those who need a bit of a primer on this, cue this helpful explanation from John @ Americablog:
Filing for cloture is how you cut off a filibuster. Basically, you file a petition for cloture, you wait two days for it to “ripen,” then you vote on it. If you get 60 votes, cloture is invoked and the legislation can be considered for no more than 30 additional hours, when you have to have a final vote. Thus when you vote for cloture, you vote against a filibuster.
Let’s go to the videotape of Harry Reid (via The Wonk Room and Igor Volsky):
REID: I’m going to file cloture tonight on the DREAM Act, we’re going to have a vote on that Saturday morning fairly early. We’re going to have a cloture vote tonight on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell- oh, not a cloture vote, I’m going to file cloture on it tonight. Those will be sequenced for Saturday, whenever we get to them. Following that, I was told by a number of Republican Senators that they need 6 or 7 days to offer amendment on the START treaty.
“We are grateful to Majority Leader Reid for following through on his promise to schedule a vote on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ during the lame duck session, and we are relieved that he has now committed to doing so well before Christmas. It would have severely threatened all of the momentum that repeal has gained recently if this vote was delayed until after the holidays,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center:
“As Senators consider the forthcoming vote on the stand-alone ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal bill, what matters most is the reality that prejudice is the only justification left for a vote against repeal. The Pentagon’s own research supplements more than twenty studies that show allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly does not undermine military readiness, and that fears about hypothetical problems are groundless. Those who reject prejudice will vote to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and those who embrace prejudice will vote to continue this policy.”
In a major blow to repeal efforts, Senate Republicans on Thursday afternoon blocked the Defense spending bill that includes an amendment that would end “don’t ask don’t tell.”
However, advocacy groups insisted that DADT repeal isn’t dead in the lame duck session despite the setback. A short time after the vote, senators who support DADT repeal said they plan to introduce a stand-alone measure to end the 17-year-old ban on open service.
The Senate voted 57-40 on a motion to proceed with the Defense bill, falling three votes short of the necessary 60, after negotiations apparently broke down between Majority Leader Harry Reid and key Republicans. Reid and other pro-repeal Democrats needed 60 votes to end a filibuster, but they were unable to reach a deal with Republicans concerning the rules for debate and amendments.
Reid blamed Republican opponents of repeal for stalling on the Defense bill in an effort to “run out the clock” on DADT repeal. He said every time he met their demands, they came back with something different.
“They want to block a vote on this issue [DADT repeal] at all costs even if it means we do not pass a Defense Authorization bill for the first time in 48 years, and even if it means our troops don’t get the funding and the protections they need,” Reid said. “In my effort to get this done, I don’t know how I could have been more reasonable. … It’s our troops that will pay the price for our inability to overcome partisan political posturing.”
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who supports a repeal of DADT but had said she would only vote to move forward on the Defense bill after the Senate addresses tax cuts, pleaded with Reid not to call for a cloture vote on the Defense bill Thursday.
“I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics,” Collins said during an exchange with Reid on the floor prior to the vote. “We should be able to do better, and Sen. [Joe] Lieberman and I have been bargaining in good faith with the majority leader. … I just want to say that I’m perplexed as to what has happened and why we’re not going forward in a constructive way that would lead to success.”
Despite her statement, Collins was the lone Republican to favor of Reid’s motion, but only after it was clear it didn’t have enough votes to pass. Other Republicans who’ve said they support DADT repeal, Scott Brown of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against Reid’s motion for cloture on the bill.
Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also voted against the motion, but Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was absent for the vote. Cornyn has said he opposes DADT repeal.
Shortly after the vote, Collins and Lieberman announced they plan to introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT, but prospects for the bill are unclear given that even if it passes the Senate, it will have to go to the House for approval, and time is running short.
“We support Sen. Lieberman’s plan to move a stand-alone bill,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a leading repeal advocacy group. “We also believe another viable option is the Continuing Resolution (CR) coming over from the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate and the president must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” in the Senate vote.
“Despite having the bipartisan support of a clear majority of Senators, a minority of Senators are standing in the way of the funding upon which our troops, veterans and military families depend,” Obama said. “This annual bill has been enacted each of the past 48 years, and our armed forces deserve nothing less this year.
“A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” the president said. “As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. A great majority of the American people agree. This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality.
“I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, and Senators Lieberman and Collins for all the work they have done on this bill,” Obama added. “While today’s vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session.”
Earlier, after the vote, the Human Rights Campaign called on Obama to immediately halt discharges under DADT and stop defending the policy in court.
“The Senate’s apparent refusal to act on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal makes presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his state of the union promise,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable.
“In this time of war, we cannot sustain a policy that has already deprived our military of thousands of service members, many with critical skills in fighting terrorism,” said Solmonese. “Every day that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country. If Congress won’t act, it’s up to the President to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago.”
ROLL CALL ON MOTION TO PROCEED WITH DEFENSE SPENDING BILL:
The cloture vote on DADT has failed 56-43 with zero Republicans voting “yes.” I’ll have the complete roll call in this post shortly. Knowing that cloture would fail, Sen. Harry Reid voted “no” too, so he’ll have the chance to reintroduce the bill. That bit of maneuvering was lost on GOProud.
In an e-mail message, Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Ms. Collins, said she was the only Republican on the Armed Forces committee to vote for a repeal and “She believes that our Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country.” However, she is calling for an open debate and allowing members to offer amendments.
In a statement, Ms. Snowe said the law is due "for a thorough review," but wants a comprehensive review complete before a vote is taken.
If you haven't called your senator, now is the time.
According to Alex Nicholson at Servicemembers United, here's what's happening tomorrow on DADT:
Tomorrow the Senate will vote at 2:15pm on cloture for the motion to proceed to debate on NDAA. All that means is that we need 60 votes tomorrow to move forward.
The good news is that we had the 60 votes lined up (a few more than 60, in fact) and we were ready to move forward as NDAA normally does. The bad news is that Senator Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, just changed the terms of the debate to slight even the moderate Republicans who were lined up to vote with us to break the filibuster.
So now, this is where we are… either Senator Reid needs to change his mind and let at least some Republicans have an amendment or two of their own, or one or two Republicans need to vote to break the filibuster without the ability to offer any of their own amendments to other areas of NDAA.
So there are two things you can do:
1. You can call Senator Reid's office and tell him to return to the original terms of amendments and debate for NDAA (the orginal terms that had us the 60 votes locked down).
2. You can call the 5 Republicans who were either going to or likely to vote to break the filibuster under the original terms of debate for NDAA (Susan Collins, Dick Lugar, George Voinovich, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown) and ask them to vote to break the filibuster anyway.
My suggestion is that we all do BOTH! No one can be let off the hook here. Please call these senate offices today and tomorrow. Numbers are below.
Alex Nicholson Executive Director Servicemembers United
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) Senate Majority Leader (202) 224-3542
"The vote is expected to be close but is almost certain to pass if Democrats can break a Republican-led filibuster. The House passed a similar measure in May, and a House-Senate compromise version is expected to pass both chambers after the November midterm elections. But even if Tuesday's vote succeeds, Senate aides said Republicans may introduce an amendment this week that would remove the repeal from the defense bill."