114th Congress: We're updating with new data as it becomes available.

OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

Big Senate Votes Today on DREAM Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and More

December 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate has a busy afternoon ahead of them. After they finish their morning impeachment trial of a federal judge, they’ll move on to a series cloture votes on some fairly significant domestic policy bills that have been kicking around the Senate for the past several years. As a reminder, cloture is a procedural motion to defeat opposition to debating a bill, and it takes 60 votes to pass. It’s basically a vote on preemptively defeating a threatened filibuster.

Today’s votes are the Democrats’ last chance to move these bills past the Republicans before they lose a handful of seats to them in the next session and finding 60 votes on this stuff becomes all but impossible. Let’s have a look at what’s on the schedule:

At 3:30pm, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S.3991. There will then be an additional 30 minutes of debate equally divided between the Leaders or their designees. Upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate will proceed to a series of up to 4 roll call votes.

  • S.3991, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2009 (commonly known as Firefighters Collective Bargaining)
  • S.3985, the Emergency Senior Citizens relief Act of 2010
  • S.3992, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010 (DREAM Act)
  • H.R.847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.

If cloture is invoked on a motion to proceed, there would then be up to 30 hours for debate.

If cloture fails on all 4 motions, there is a possibility that Senator Reid would reconsider the failed cloture vote on the motion to proceed to S.3454, DoD Authorization.

The way those first four votes are lined up back-to-back leads me to believe that Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] doesn’t have much hope they will get 60 votes on any of them.

The back-up plan to move to the Defense Authorization bill, which includes a repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a little more promising. In the wake of the Defense Department’s recent study showing that repealing DADT would not ham the military’s ability to fight, the Obama Administration has begun flipping votes from no to yes. The last time the Senate voted on this bill, in September, it failed with three Democrats voting no. One of them, Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR], has flipped to a yes. Another, Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR], sounds gettable if there is time for her to offer amendments. And the third no vote was Majority Leader Reid, who only voted no in order to reserve his right under Senate rules to call this bill back up for another attempt at cloture.

With these three voting yes, the Dems will still need at least two Republicans to vote with them. That would seem entirely possible since at least three Republicans have said they will vote in favor of repealing DADT after the report is released. But, as Politico reports, Democatic aides are worried that the Republicans’ pledge to vote no on everything until they have secured an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all levels of income could trip this up:

However, a Senate aide working on the repeal effort and prominent gay rights advocate expressed strong concerns Wednesday morning that “don’t ask” repeal will die if called up Wednesday because Republicans supportive of repeal have publicly pledged that they will insist that the Senate act first on taxes.

“This it the bottom line: premature consideration will have the net effect of killing the repeal. This could happen today,” said the Senate aide, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive internal discussions about timing of the defense bill. “We are very, very concerned at the moment that if it is considered today it will merely fail and that will be the end of the repeal.”

“The way that this is being brought up is a bit [messed] up and may be a recipe for failure. Reid’s office is rationalizing that having the rubber hit the road will force the moderate Republicans to make a decision,” said the gay rights advocate, who also asked not to be further identified. “It’s a high stakes gamble.”

Asked why Reid, a repeal supporter, would move the bill in a way that might lead to its failure, the Senate aide said: "He wants to clear the decks. He’s got a bunch of bills and my sense is he wants to dispose of them and the clock is ticking and he has to consider both the tax cut bill and a CR.

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.