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Gaga Exerts Pressure in Maine, But Will Collins and Snowe Buck the GOP Obstructionists?

The Maine press and the national media devoted full coverage to the Lady Gaga/Servicemembers Legal Defense Network rally yesterday in Deering Oaks Park in Portland, and 2,500 supporters joined her at the event to press for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Gaga accomplished something that Barack Obama never did during the health care debate or the stimulus: she put pressure on Maine’s Senators by appearing in their backyard. In fact, just that event alone represents more lobbying than the President has done on this entire bill in the Senate. And she doesn’t have Air Force One; she drove up I-95 in her tour bus 11 hours from Raleigh, North Carolina to make it to Portland. When the defense authorization bill was assured of passing the House as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee, then and only then did Obama and his organizing team pile on to press for passage. Now, with the vote in peril, they’ve done next to nothing, outside of a perfunctory statement of support (earlier Obama did promise to make calls to Senators on the DREAM Act, which is also attached to this bill, so I’m not sure how that plays in).

However, it’s unclear whether Gaga’s efforts were enough to sway Maine’s two Senators, who hold the fate of the motion to proceed today in their hands:

“Let me be clear, the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law should be changed,” said Collins in a statement. But she criticized Reid’s handling of the bill.

“Now is not the time to play politics, and I again call on the Majority Leader to work with Republican leaders to negotiate an agreement so that the Senate can debate the defense bill this week,” she said.

Snowe said the 17-year-old policy is ‘overdue’ for review, but added that a vote on the policy should wait until the defense department’s comprehensive review, ordered in March, is complete.

“We should all have the opportunity to review that report which is to be completed on December 1, as we reevaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes,” she said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that nowhere in Snowe’s statement or Collins’ statement do they explicitly say they would vote against cloture on the motion to proceed, regardless of what the LA Times says. However, both of them expressed a clear preference to join their obstructionist GOP buddies and hide behind procedure to continue enshrining discrimination into the personnel decisions of the armed forces.

We’ll see what they do today, at approximately 2:15pm ET. Is HRC scoring the motion to proceed, or will Susan Collins get to skate again and appear on the cover of Equality magazine?

A word on procedure, Reid’s plan if the motion to proceed passes is to vote on three amendments: the DREAM Act, an GOP amendment stripping out DADT (which doesn’t have 60 votes), and an ban on secret holds. Then, he would move off the bill and over to either a continuing resolution to fund the government or the Obama tax plan. The Senate would return to the defense authorization bill after the elections.

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David Dayen

David Dayen