Counting Votes: Bigots Aside, How DADT Could Squeak Through
The floor of the U.S. House offered quite a debate yesterday on repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, including some beautiful speeches from Democrats on the importance of respect and equality.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). Hoping to defend the status quo, the confused Texan insisted that "the military is inconsistent with American values," adding that other powerful nations throughout history moved "toward the end of their existence" when they allowed "homosexuality to be overt."
Soon after, Gohmert's colleagues ignored his hysterics and easily approved the freestanding repeal legislation.
The House voted 250 to 175 to repeal the 17-year-old law; 15 Republicans voted for the bill, and 15 Democrats voted against it.
The 75-vote margin was wider than a similar House vote in May, when language ending the ban was part of the annual defense authorization bill. That bill failed a procedural vote in the Senate last week, requiring another vote in the House on a separate measure to end to the gay ban.
President Obama heralded the vote, saying in a statement that ending current military policy "is not only the right thing to do, it will also give our military the clarity and certainty it deserves. We must ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally by their country."
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday night that he wants to bring up the bill, but warned, "We are very quickly running out of days in this Congress. The time for week-long negotiations on amendments and requests for days of debate is over. Republican senators who favor repealing this discriminatory policy need to join with us now."
The message from Reid's office wasn't subtle -- the Majority Leader supports the bill and wants it to pass, but if GOP supporters insist on yet another lengthy, time-killing debate, the repeal push will very likely fail again.
We'll probably learn more today about how the process is likely to shake out, but as of right now, there's reason for guarded optimism. Last week, repeal garnered 57 votes. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) was at the dentist, but she'll be on hand for the next vote, and she'll support repeal. That's 58.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she'd oppose repeal until after the vote on the tax deal, but now that the Senate has approved the policy, she announced yesterday she's a "yes" on this, too. That's 59.
To get over this last hurdle, proponents will need one more vote, which would likely come from a group of relative GOP moderates that includes Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Lugar (Ind.), and George Voinovich (Ohio). To be clear, Dems don't need all four of them -- they just need one.
The question is what kind of demands we can expect. On the massive defense authorization bill, Brown and Murkowski wanted a lengthy debate with a lot of amendments, but there's no reason for them to make similar conditions on this bill -- it's a clean and simple repeal measure.
If these GOP senators support the change in policy, as they say they do, this should be a relatively painless success. If they make unreasonable demands about process, intended to run out the clock on the session, the last, best shot at repeal will suffer yet another heartbreaker.