Friday, December 17, 2010

Are we about to get DADT repeal?

Maybe. Yes, just maybe. There's no good reason to be optimistic, given how the Senate works, but, well, things are looking good.

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown today voiced his support for a stand-alone repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, bringing the bill one vote over the 60-vote threshold that it will need to reach if and when the Senate votes on the measure in the coming weeks...

Brown's backing means that – on paper – supporters of the repeal have 61 senators in favor of the bill. On Wednesday Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski both announced their support for the stand-alone repeal. The House passed the clean repeal on Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring it to a vote in the Senate before the end of the year.

With the $1.1-trillion omnibus budget bill pushed aside (and off into the next Congress), mainly because Republicans (who had been involved in crafting it) were going to use it to paralyze the Senate (by requiring that it be read in its entirety, out loud by Senate clerks, all 1,924 pages of it), there would now appear to be enough time to get DADT repealed and perhaps also START ratified.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced late today that he would hold cloture votes (which effectively end any filibusters) on DADT and the DREAM Act (which is unlikely to pass) on Saturday. It looks like the Senate will vote on stand-alone DADT repeal before turning to the START treaty.

Credit where credit is due: Joe Lieberman has been a big supporter of DADT repeal and seems to be the one behind this legislative strategy:

I want to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in bringing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010" to the Senate floor for a vote. I am confident that we have more than 60 votes to end this law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation. Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will affirm the Senate's commitment to the civil rights of all Americans and also make our military even stronger.

Now it's just a matter of getting the necessary Republican votes: Brown, Snowe, and Murkowski, and maybe also Collins, Lugar, and Voinovich.

No, we're not there yet, but we're close -- and I honestly didn't think it would get done.

And think about it.

If DADT is repealed and START is ratified, wouldn't that be an incredible way for this Congress to bow out? DADT repeal in particular would be a major victory for the Democrats' progressive base (and of course also for civil rights), particularly at the end of a two-year run that was hardly all that positive for progressives. And START ratification would be a major victory for Obama's foreign policy agenda.

It would be hard to maintain any momentum heading into the next Congress, with Republicans taking over the House and the Democrats coming back to a smaller majority in the Senate, but two such victories in the wake of the midterms and the bleak post-election period would give us a good deal to cheer about as we head into 2011.

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