Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Can we get some DADT repeal, please?

First, it's the right thing to do.

Second, for Democrats (including the White House) it would go a long way towards winning back some support from the liberal-progressive base, particularly in light of the... oh, how shall I put it?... less-than-perfect tax deal.

And, lame-duckery notwithstanding, it looks like the Senate could very well get it done, if only it weren't for that ridiculous filibuster rule.

And it it weren't for all those obstructionist, hostage-taking Republicans, which is pretty much all of them. Even the supposed moderates won't do anything to break the GOP's monolithic partisanship.

As CNN reports, "a planned make-or-break vote on starting debate on repealing" DADT was postponed late today.

And why? 

It looks like Republican non-teabagging renegade Lisa Murkowski will vote for repeal, assuming a "free and open" amendment process, but chief hostage-taker Susan Collins, one of the few supposed moderates left, is holding out, demanding votes on 15 amendments (including 10 Republican ones) but also -- and here's what this is really all about -- that the tax deal be pushed through first. "Everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first," she said.

Consider her line of reasoning: "If we're in the same situation that we are now, I don't see how I could vote for it. But I'm obviously going to think further. But frankly they won't get to 60 votes even if I did vote for it. So why not take the path that would lead to 60 votes."

This makes no sense, unless you realize what the Republicans are up to. Why would she vote against repeal now but for repeal if the tax deal is done first? Is she for DADT or against it? She's probably against it, or at least agreeable to repeal, but that hardly matters. What matters is leverage, her leverage, her power, and the power of her party, which she is placing before her own principles (if she has any at all other than the use of her anti-majoritarian senatorial prerogatives to their fullest extent in the service of her party (or whatever her self-interest happens to be at any given time).

So she could vote for repeal, she just won't. It's all just a game. She just refuses to admit it.

And, meanwhile, time is running out. And she's working on behalf of her party to run out the clock. Because, let's face it, the tax deal isn't going to get done quickly. There's too much opposition, in both parties, and a lot will need to be hammered out to get the votes.

So when will DADT be repealed? Well, not anytime soon. Because "the tax package" won't be "completed" before the lame-duck Congress is done. And then DADT repeal will be pushed back into the next Congress, where the votes will be even hardly to come by, given near-unanimous Republican opposition in what will be a Senate with a smaller Democratic majority.

Sure, maybe Collins reduces her demands and allows a vote to go forward (if Democrats can put together the necessary 60 votes), but, even then, we'd still be a long way off from repeal. After all, the vote today would just have been to start the debate, and there's hardly any guarantee the votes will be there on a final vote.

See what's going on? The Republicans won't even allow for debate until the tax deal is done. But even if they allow for debate, they may not vote for repeal -- most of them won't, of course, but even Collins might not, and Democrats might not get the 60 votes.

In other words, they want what they want without actually guaranteeing anything in return. That, presumably, is what they mean by compromise. Here's how Steve Benen explains it:

It's worth emphasizing that Collins just isn't being reasonable. Looking back over the last couple of decades, a total of 10 amendments is entirely routine for this defense authorization bill, and is actually far more than the number of amendments considered most of the time.

Why not just give in and tell Collins she can have unlimited debate? Because Republicans really are desperate to kill the legislation, and the most far-right members will keep offering unrelated amendments indefinitely, running out the clock on the lame-duck session, and derailing the bill.

[A senior Senate aide] told me, Collins is "basically asking for a unicorn for Christmas. We can't give her a unicorn."

So, is that it? Will Collins screw over gay servicemembers and blow off Pentagon requests over baseless procedural demands? That appears pretty likely.

There's also the matter of the "hostage strategy" -- Collins is part of a united GOP caucus that has vowed to kill literally every piece of legislation until Republicans are satisfied with the result of the tax debate. As of now, that includes DADT repeal.

Democrats are "still trying" -- even Lieberman is on board, promoting repeal -- but, given the way the Senate works, Republicans will likely get their way.

Which, as usual, is terrible for the country.

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