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DADT, DREAM, and Midterm Politics

September 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

So, moderate Republicans Snowe, Collins (pictured at right) and Brown are all going to vote no today on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Defense Bill. That means no chance to vote on the DREAM Act and no chance for enacting a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal.

While some Republicans are certainly being hypocritical in their sudden purity about amendment germaneness and open debates, but the Democrats are also being a little disingenuous here. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has set particularly stringent limits on how long the pre-midterms Defense bill debate can be and what amendments can be voted on because he wants to leave D.C. as soon as possible to get into full-time campaigning. If he allowed the Defense bill debate to cut a week off of the campaign season, it’s likely that there would be enough support in the Senate today to move forward with the bill and, hence, with DADT and the DREAM Act.

The Democrats are just one vote short right now of the 60 they need to break the Republican filibuster. If you read Susan Collins’ [R, ME] statement on why she’s voting no, it seems clear that if Reid let the full debate play out, Collins would provide the 60th vote.

“I was the only Republican to vote for that position as a member of the Armed Services Committee. I spoke strongly during the debate on this issue during the committee. But it is simply not fair to block out amendments from people who disagree with my position. For the life of me I do not understand why the Majority Leader doesn’t bring this bill to the floor and allow free and open debate and amendments from both sides of the aisle,” says Collins.

Now, Collins’ idea of a free and open debate is a little far-fetched. Almost nothing is done that way in the Senate these days. However, the majority party is usually willing to work out a deal with the minority re: the amendment process for bills like this, but in this case, Reid is not. The point is, the Democrats could most likely get DADT and the DREAM Act done if they were willing to give up a bit more of their campaign time for a fuller debate on the Defense bill. And the fact that they’re not choosing to do so highlights the underlying situation here — the Senate Democratic leadership’s support for the DADT repeal and the DREAM Act right now goes only so far as they think it will help them electorally in November. After November, it may be a different situation. But, for now, midterm politics rules.

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