Repeal DADT Sign _JasonPier-Flickr

photo: Jason Pier via Flickr

The House passage of the standalone bill that would effect a legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell leads to the worst words in the English language: “The bill now moves to the Senate.” But there’s some reason for optimism.

First of all, check out the roll call of the 250-175 House vote. Supporters actually picked up 20 votes relative to the last time this went through the House, as part of the defense authorization bill. Where 5 Republicans supported the bill last time, 15 did this time, including several California GOPers whose districts went for Obama in ’08, like Mary Bono Mack, John Campbell and David Dreier. And only 15 Democrats voted against the bill (only 5 of whom will return next session). Could the huge majority in favor of repeal actually be swaying these Congresscritters to get on the right side of history?

Second, Democrats do believe they have the votes to get this through the Senate. And on paper, they do. Every Democrat but Joe Manchin has basically pledged to support through their most recent votes on the matter, and among Republicans, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Lugar and now Olympia Snowe have expressed support:

“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” Snowe said in a statement.

However, just because Snowe supports repeal doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll vote to end debate on this particular bill. Brown and Murkowski “support repeal” too, but they used procedural reasons to avoid voting for cloture last week. Only Collins has actually voted for cloture, and that was when nothing was on the line. Collins is a co-sponsor of this bill, so I’d expect her to be there in the end, but that still means two Republicans have to be as good as their word.  . . .

Harry Reid’s statement on this was circumspect, to say the least:

“The time for action is now. We plan on considering the stand-alone bill to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ which was sent over by the House.

“But let me be clear. 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 to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress.”

In other words, there’s limited time on the calendar, and those willing to vote for repeal need to agree to a narrow set of amendments and an expedited calendar in order to get passage.

The one amendment I could see coming up, which would be a poison pill, would be to extend certification for repeal to the service chiefs, instead of just the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. As we know, some service chiefs are uncomfortable with the policy, and others are just straight-up homophobes. Giving them the power to veto repeal would open the eventual repeal up to internal squabbles amongst the armed services and personal vanity and a whole bunch of other things. It’s a sure way to strangle the policy. And you can be sure someone, probably John McCain, will introduce that amendment. It may even sound reasonable to enough Democrats to gain majority support.

Of course, if any amendment passes, the bill would have to go back to the House for final approval. Reid will probably have to allow votes on some amendments to get buy-in from the likes of Brown and Murkowski. But he has to balance that with the number of days left in the session.

We still don’t know when the vote will occur. There’s the omnibus spending bill and the new START treaty seemingly in line first. The latter looks cleared for passage, but the former looks to be in trouble, which could kick off a major crisis.

It sure looks like the votes are there to get this done. But that doesn’t always mean everything in the Senate.

The House passage of the standalone bill that would effect a legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell leads to the worst words in the English language: “The bill now moves to the Senate.” But there’s some reason for optimism.

First of all, check out the roll call of the 250-175 House vote. Supporters actually picked up 20 votes relative to the last time this went through the House, as part of the defense authorization bill. Where 5 Republicans supported the bill last time, 15 did this time, including several California GOPers whose districts went for Obama in ’08, like Mary Bono Mack, John Campbell and David Dreier. And only 15 Democrats voted against the bill (only 5 of whom will return next session). Could the huge majority in favor of repeal actually be swaying these Congresscritters to get on the right side of history?

Second, Democrats do believe they have the votes to get this through the Senate. And on paper, they do. Every Democrat but Joe Manchin has basically pledged to support through their most recent votes on the matter, and among Republicans, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Lugar and now Olympia Snowe have expressed support:

“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” Snowe said in a statement.

However, just because Snowe supports repeal doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll vote to end debate on this particular bill. Brown and Murkowski “support repeal” too, but they used procedural reasons to avoid voting for cloture last week. Only Collins has actually voted for cloture, and that was when nothing was on the line. Collins is a co-sponsor of this bill, so I’d expect her to be there in the end, but that still means two Republicans have to be as good as their word.

Harry Reid’s statement on this was circumspect, to say the least:

“The time for action is now. We plan on considering the stand-alone bill to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ which was sent over by the House.

“But let me be clear. 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 to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress.”

In other words, there’s limited time on the calendar, and those willing to vote for repeal need to agree to a narrow set of amendments and an expedited calendar in order to get passage.

The one amendment I could see coming up, which would be a poison pill, would be to extend certification for repeal to the service chiefs, instead of just the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. As we know, some service chiefs are uncomfortable with the policy, and others are just straight-up homophobes. Giving them the power to veto repeal would open the eventual repeal up to internal squabbles amongst the armed services and personal vanity and a whole bunch of other things. It’s a sure way to strangle the policy. And you can be sure someone, probably John McCain, will introduce that amendment. It may even sound reasonable to enough Democrats to gain majority support.

Of course, if any amendment passes, the bill would have to go back to the House for final approval. Reid will probably have to allow votes on some amendments to get buy-in from the likes of Brown and Murkowski. But he has to balance that with the number of days left in the session.

We still don’t know when the vote will occur. There’s the omnibus spending bill and the new START treaty seemingly in line first. The latter looks cleared for passage, but the former looks to be in trouble, which could kick off a major crisis.

It sure looks like the votes are there to get this done. But that doesn’t always mean everything in the Senate.

David Dayen

David Dayen