One might think the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan would lead to more talk in Congress about winding down the war in Afghanistan, and to some extent it has. Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1], for example, is petitioning for an accelerated withdrawal. But the Republican House leadership, which is really the locus of Congress' decision-making as a whole, is pushing in the other direction. They are using the must-pass 2012 Defense Authorization Act as a vehicle to expand the President's authority to use military force against virtually anybody suspected of terrorism, anywhere in the world, at any time.Read Full Article
President Obama is scheduled to sign the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act into law on Wednesday morning. But that's not stopping supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in Congress from strategizing on how to kill the repeal and maintain the U.S. code barring gay men and women from serving openly in the military. According to the New York Times' Caucus blog, supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are already working to amend the repeal bill by adding poison-pill amendments to other "must-pass" bills:Read Full Article
Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME] is considered one of the Republicans that the Democrats have to get on board to overcome a GOP filibuster and pass the 2011 DoD Authorization bill that includes a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The vote will likely take place this evening, but discussions between Democrats and Collins have hit a wall because Collins wants time to hold an open debate on the bill. The Democrats have offered to allow 15 votes on amendment -- 10 from GOP and 5 from Dems -- but they don't want an open-ended debate because 1) they want to go home and 2) they don't want to allow people like Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] and Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC], who are infamous for proposing non-germane amendments, to crash the whole thing over an unrelated poison-pill on sex offenders or something.Read Full Article
As expected, the motion in the Senate to begin debate of the 2011 Defense bill, which contains a provision repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and would be the vehicle for a possible DREAM Act amendment, was rejected this afternoon, 56-43. Sixty votes were needed to approve the motion.
Arkansas' two senators, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, joined every Republican in voting it down. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] technically voted "no" as well, but only in order to preserve his right under Senate rules to bring the motion to a vote again at some point in the future.Read Full Article
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.Read Full Article
I know a lot of you out there are waiting on the Senate to take up legislation extending unemployment insurance to 99ers and other exhaustees, but it looks like this week will instead be used to hold a couple politically-charged votes on a bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] doesn't even plan on finishing until after the November midterms. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the immigration-related DREAM Act are scheduled for debate and votes this week as amendments to the 2011 Defense AUthorization Act, which Reid said on Thursday most likely won't be completed until the lame-duck session.Read Full Article
A district court judge in California has preempted Congress and ruled "don't ask don't tell" unconstitutional, calling it a facial violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Even though President Obama favors repealing the policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, the ruling puts the administration in a bit of a bind.
Normally, the President would appeal any district court decision that strikes a federal statute, and, as Jason Mazzone at Balkinization explains, in this case, the administration has additional legal reasons to appeal -- shoring up the requirments of what constitutes a facial challenge, and showing deference to the military in a time of war. On the other hand, Obama and leaders in the military both want the policy repealed, and they are probably worried that Congress won't act on the repeal while the Democrats still hold enough of a majority to get it passed.Read Full Article