WASHINGTON — With Congress increasingly paralyzed by the partisan fury of the midterm elections, the Senate on Tuesday voted against taking up a major military bill that includes a provision allowing the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” regarding gay soldiers.
Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill — the huge, annual authorization of military programs — after the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would attach a number of the Democrats’ election-year priorities to it while also moving to limit the amendments offered by Republicans.
The vote was 56 to 43, with Democrats falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and take up the bill. The Arkansas Democrats, Senators Blanche L. Lincoln and Mark Pryor, sided with all 40 Republicans present in opposing debate. Mr. Reid switched his vote to no at the last minute, a procedural maneuver that allows him to call for a revote.
People who know me well will likely find the title of this post surprising, but believe it or not, that’s how I feel.
Oh, sure the Republicans did manage to block moving the defense spending bill forward, so there is definitely a certain amount of righteous anger towards the right … but I’m laying a huge chunk of the blame firmly on Harry Reid’s shoulders. Note in the second paragraph where it status that Reid “would attach a number of the Democrats’ election-year priorities to it while also moving to limit the amendments offered by the Republicans.”
The Wall Street Journal reports the Republican move as follows:
Republicans objected to Mr. Reid placing restrictions on amendments to the bill and also said Democrats were loading the legislation with measures not central to defense. Republicans objected to Democratic plans to vote on a limited number of amendments, including a provision allowing certain children of immigrants to obtain legal status, which many Republicans oppose.
So what exactly does immigration reform have to do with Pentagon spending?
More broadly in Tuesday’s debate, Republicans denounced Mr. Reid for not allowing more GOP amendments. Mr. Reid said the first three amendments would be a Republican move to strip out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal; the immigration measure, called the DREAM Act; and a provision to bar secret “holds” on legislation in the Senate.
The immigration measure would grant six years of legal residency to high-school graduates who have lived in the U.S. continuously for five years and arrived by the age of 15. They would become eligible for citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military for two years during the legal residency period.
Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), one of the Republicans that Democrats had hoped to attract to their side, said Mr. Reid had turned an important measure to fund the Armed Services into a “messaging bill” with the upcoming election in mind.
And that’s the problem right there … if Reid hadn’t attempted to stuff other non-defense spending related measures into the bill except for the language repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, then the Republicans would have a much harder time arguing against a straight up-and-down vote to approve the bill.
Yes, there would still be objections. Yes, it’s likely that that a disproportionate number of Republicans would still have voted no … but it’s more likely that some Republicans would have crossed the aisle to vote yes, and our government would take yet another step forward in treating all citizens equally regardless of sexual orientation.
And President Obama would have been able to claim another victory, instead of being handed another setback, another defeat ahead of the elections this November. That chance is now likely lost until after the elections …
By politicizing even further what normally should have been a non-political, non-partisan vote, the Democrats have virtually ensured that DADT won’t be repealed in the near-term, and depending on the outcome of the elections in November, possibly not at all.