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Posted at 2:05 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Whether DADT repeal passes is largely up to Reid and Obama

By Greg Sargent

Let's not lose sight of this fact: Whether or not Don't Ask Don't Tell is repealed this year is largely up to Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

Can those two men wave a wand and force enough Republicans to vote for cloture on repeal to ensure that it clears 60 votes? No, of course not. But Reid and the President can ensure that repeal at least has a plausible chance of passing. At the same time, if they don't do the right thing, they will also be ensuring that it has no chance of passing.

Right now, the outstanding question is whether Reid will schedule enough time for floor debate and amendments to remove Senator Susan Collins' final pretext for saying she'll vote No on cloture for the Defense Authorization Bill containing repeal. Collins has signaled she will support repeal if that time is alloted.

It remains unclear precisely how much time Collins will deem sufficient. But presumably Senate Dem leaders can ask Collins privately how much floor debate time she needs. And if her reply is not too unreasonable, they can give it to her. The White House can urge Reid to do this, making it more likely.

Senator Joe Lieberman is calling on the Dem Senate leadership to extend the lame duck session for an extra week, giving Collins what she wants. Lieberman believes she will make good on her promise, which would all but certainly guarantee that other moderate GOPers would follow. As Jonathan Capehart and Steve Benen argue persuasively, Lieberman's call for an extra week is exactly right.

Dems will quite rightly protest that Collins has not always proven the most reliable of negotiating partners. They will argue that even if the Dem leadership does give Collins what she wants, she could pull the football away again. So why bother?

I'm very sympathetic to this argument. But ultimately, this comes down to a choice: Do we want there to be some chance that repeal passes this year, or no chance at all?

As unreliable as Collins has been in the past, it's not unreasonable to assume that this is one issue where she does want to vote Yes. The Pentagon report, and Robert Gates' powerful call on Congress to pass repeal for the good of the military, are big-time game-changers. And it's not totally unheard of for Collins to go along with Dems to break a GOP filibuster. Remember Wall Street reform?

My worry is that Dem leaders think that if they schedule just a few days of floor debate, and Collins balks, they'll be able to blame her unreasonableness for the failure of DADT repeal. If they do that, they will have a plausible case. The only problem will be that DADT will remain in place.

If Dem leaders don't give Collins the floor debate she wants, there's no chance DADT will be repealed this year. If they do, there's some chance it will be repealed. And there's no serious downside to holding a week of debate, except that it might complicate the travel plans of a few dozen Senators who already have pretty comfortable lives. The latter option is clearly worth the tradeoff.

If repeal is going to have any chance at all of happening, it's largely on Reid and Obama.

UPDATE, 3:04 p.m.: Harry Reid, on the Senate floor today:

"We're also going to repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule. We're going to match our policy with our principles and finally say that in the United States, everyone who steps up to serve our country should be welcomed."

That's essentially Reid's statement that a vote is tentatively scheduled for the final weeks of the lame duck session. The remaining issue is how much time is scheduled for debate.

By Greg Sargent  | December 6, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, gay rights  
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Next: If not now, when?


Joe Manchin is not voting for Don't Ask to be repealed

And the Republicans now have 42 votes.

Don't Ask needs three Republicans - there is little chance that after this year's election that any Republican would want to break with their party's leadership while they are on an upswing.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 6, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse


Why are saying it is largely up to Reid and Obama?

Reid can allot time for debate in the Senate. Obama has no say in that, and a prolonged debate will not guarantee that Republicans will help pass the repeal.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 6, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

You've made the case for why it is Reid's responsibility for finding the right balance in scheduling DADT repeal vote, but I don't see where that is Obama's responsibility. There's not a lot he could do directly to make Susan Collins happy w/r/t meeting her requests.

I guessing you are referring to Obama throwing in the towel and leaving Dems in the lurch again? Just curious why you mention Obama in the above article.

Posted by: Alex3 | December 6, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse


GREAT to have you back. The President can signal to Reid that he wants this done, making it easier for him to do it. I am certainly not one who blames the President for Dems' lack of leadership, but here's a case where a push from him certainly would help.

As for whether it will "guarantee" anything, I think I addressed that in the post. Of course it doesn't guarantee GOP cooperation. But it makes repeal at least POSSIBLE. Because of that, it's worth doing.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 6, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Rather than chaining themselves to the WH fence, the protesters should chain themselves to Collins, Snowe and others that can make this happen in the Senate. Put pressure on those who's vote you don't have.

A bunch of misdirected protest imho.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 6, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Greg! Exactly right. It's up to Reid and Obama: resolve the tax rates issue and then move on to defense authorization. Quit effin' around with pointless weekend votes, DREAM, START, and now some omnibus environment package.

It's almost obvious - these Dems actually want to see DADT go on so that they can use it against the GOP. (Or would that be too cynical of me?)

Posted by: sbj3 | December 6, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

It's quite pathetic that you have to reach a point in a piece of legislation where you have to rely on Collins of Maine.
She is one of the dimmest bulbs in the Senate. In comparison, she makes Cantor and Mike Pence sound like Mensa members.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 6, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse


It is Entirely up to the Senate Republicans, if they will allow an up or down vote on repealing DADT.

Neither Reid or Obama can do anything about that reality. I fully expect that Republicans will never allow it to come to a final vote, regardless of how much time Harry will give them to debate the issue.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 6, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

@liam: "It is Entirely up to the Senate Republicans."

Liam has it exactly wrong. Thank goodness gay people are not THAT stupid. We're watching and we understand that now is the time to repeal this sucker.

"There are at least 60 votes to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year, provided that leadership allows time for sufficient debate and amendments."

Just do it, Reid. Don't play cynical political games with something you used to think was so fundamentally important.

Posted by: sbj3 | December 6, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Win or lose on DADT repeal, Obama and all the other Democrats lose with a large section of the base if they don't at least try to put up a fight to repeal DADT.

Democrats have an opportunity here to show party loyalists that they give a damn about something that matters to the loyalists. Or they have an opportunity to cave yet again at the mere suggestion of Republican intransigence.

Greg's right: It's up to Obama and Reid. I just hope they have some sense of how important (intrinsically and symbolically) this is.

Posted by: S1VA | December 6, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"lose with a large section of the base if they don't at least try to put up a fight to repeal DADT."

Just curious as to what you'd call a fight. Do you want Obama to:

Organize activists via Facebook!/barackobama

Or maybe address it on a National stage

Or maybe address the issue in official press releases?

Or possibly have his press secretary reiterate his position every time they are asked to clarify it.

Just curious I guess.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 6, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

First of all; I'm pretty sure Obama/Reid are going to work to get this done the best they can. OFA has been phone banking on this issue last week and this week.

Second, REPUBLICANS and conservative democrats are in lockstep opposition.

IMO, I think Lieberman is right. Let's just have the floor debate and do the vote and let's see where everyone stands but from Gates' comments that doesn't look possible since POTUS wants the START treaty.

Posted by: Rhoda | December 6, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

To sbj3 -

This today from Robert Gates -

"Gates said that he was "not particularly optimistic" that Congress would overturn the policy soon, even though he wishes it would."

Except for possibly providing for the extension of unemployment benefits ( GOP crumbs to the working class), I don't expect that the GOP will give Obama anything that he wants in the next two weeks. Why should they? They know they are dealing with a chump. Probably a one term one at that.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 6, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm starting to get the sense that some of the frustration directed at this WH is a result of some activists on the lefts' frustration with their own inability to be as influential as say the tea party crowd has been with shutting down even simple debate.

I'm kinda ticked too a counter movement wasn't orchestrated to battle back against the Koch orchestrated and funded, what began as astro-turfing and then turned into a hybrid astro-turf/grass roots movement. I suppose it's hard to counter waves like this last one and the ones in 2008 and 2006, although the last two were of smaller proportions individually but together resulted in super-majorities Republicans could only dream of having in the legislative branch.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 6, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

@filmnoia: I certainly hope that all those gay activists who donated time or money to Obama or Reid are taking a hard look at themselves and what their actions have wrought. This may be the best chance in two or more years to get DADT repealed and yet Reid has hemmed and hawed and has *STILL* failed to set any sort of schedule for the defense authorization. Instead, we take meaningless votes and talk about the DREAM act. It's only the gullible few shrieking partisans on this board who are blaming the conservatives for DADT repeal failure right now. It's quite obvious that Obama and the Dems are making a cynical political calculation to use this against conservatives and shore up this part of their gullible base (absent gays this next time - my fervent hope.)

Posted by: sbj3 | December 6, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

All, a quick take on Robert Gates's statement today on DADT:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 6, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"It's only the gullible few shrieking partisans on this board who are blaming the conservatives for DADT repeal failure right now. It's quite obvious that Obama and the Dems are making a cynical political calculation to use this against conservatives and shore up this part of their gullible base..."

McCain is the GOP fulcrum on this issue , so I don't think too many are blaming the Right as a group, just mainly this one tired and confused old man. Yes, cynicism is rampant in Congress, what else is new? It's just that the GOP have perfected it to a ruthless art form to a much greater degree than Reid or Obama.
I really don't believe Obama's base is gullible. If anything, right now, he wishes they were. There has been enough anger and frustration on the Left on this board and elsewhere to prove the lie of a gullible Obama base. The term "gullible base" is more of a GOP/Tea party phenomena.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 6, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"We're also going to repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule. ..."
------------------------------------------Sounds like he thinks he has the votes lined up...

Posted by: illogicbuster | December 6, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse


I dearly hope you are right in your update that we now can expect that a vote will occur.

If that is the case, I applaud Senators Reid and Collins for their principled stands in support of equal rights.

And I vehemently urge all Senators, Republicans and Democrats, to oppose filibuster and support the final bill.

Posted by: paul65 | December 6, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Another Reporter that believes Obama has a "magic-wand?"

This is a charade by Democrats and the LGBT-advocacy industry - they will say "we were so close, please send money."

They weren't close. 60 votes are required and DADT Repeal has only 54 votes. It never had a chance and won't until we have 60 votes. That happens with elections, not "magic-wands."

Posted by: AndrewW1 | December 6, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I cannot believe anyone would actually encourage Democrats to continue fiddling while Rome burns. Democrats lost the last election (were "shellacked," in fact) because they focused on health care rather than jobs. Focusing on DADT would just be a repeat of a mistake whose consequence is already known.

Posted by: ATLMichael | December 6, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Barry cannot even get all the Democrats to vote for cloture. Last time around in September, three Dims voted against. Since then, newly-elected Joe Manchin (D-WV) has joined the Senate and indicated he does not support repeal of DADT. Jim Webb (D-VA) who is also against repeal, and voted against in committee, says he will vote against in the full Senate.

Add to that there are now 42 Republicans in the Senate not 41. That adds up to no repeal during this lame duck session of Congress.

Does Barry have the votes? No.

Posted by: screwjob22 | December 6, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Homosexual article number 2,527 from the Washington Post.

Thank you Washington Post for keeping us updated on everything Homosexual.

Posted by: FormerDemocrat | December 6, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

In the recent poll, the Marine combat units spoke loud and clear. Don't repeal DADT. Don't put men and "women" in showers, barracks and foxholes together. It is a combustible mix that would cause no end of trouble.

The heroes of Iwo Jima are right. Don't place political correctness above our national defense.

Posted by: Horace2 | December 6, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing that the senile old bigot John McCain is trying to deny basic rights to millions of Americans. War hero, my ass. May God have mercy on his soul.

Posted by: SmallBusiness | December 6, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I think Harry Reid's brush with defeat at the hands of a wacky teabagger has awakened him to who his real supporters are. Gay folks & Latinos (& gay Latinos for that matter) helped insure that an airhead fundamentalist who thinks the government should force raped women to carry the fetus to term didn't embarrass Nevada for the next 6 yrs! So I think he's going to do what's right...Not so sure about Mr. Obama. He's so quick to compromise, this may still slip away, & once again we will look stupid in the eyes of the civilized world.

Posted by: NMguy1 | December 7, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

I mean...I'm Asking AND I'm Telling. Read More @imeanwhat

Posted by: IMeanWhat1 | December 7, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse


"Can those two men wave a wand and force enough Republicans to vote for cloture on repeal to ensure that it clears 60 votes?"

You go on and say No, but...

The root problem is that it is *not* just Repubicans balking. There were 2 Senators from the Democratic Party that were instrumental in blocking cloture last time. Collins wants debate AND the ability to forward amendments.

Taking out the DADT will be proposed, I am sure. I don't think it will have legs, but it might. But, another Liberal Dream *is* likely to die. Yes, the Dream Act will likely be stricken. And do not be suprised if the language is purely to strike DADT *without* making any kind of protective statements to Guarentee DADT stays dead. That has got legs -- very much so. And they have had the time to read this and know EXACTLY what to strike from the Bill to do this. The more Moderate Blue Dogs in the Senate may go for that.

All Democratic Senators will have a say if this opens up for debate. Reid knows that and fought hard to avoid that because he knows just what it can mean. Republicans will also have some say in the middle of the road if they come part way.

I warn you that blaming Collins may *not* be a smart thing.

"My worry is that Dem leaders think that if they schedule just a few days of floor debate, and Collins balks, they'll be able to blame her unreasonableness for the failure of DADT repeal. If they do that, they will have a plausible case. The only problem will be that DADT will remain in place."

The further Problem is in how much she is likely to stick her neck out for Democratic Sponsored Ideas if you try to hang her out to dry. There is a serious loss beyond losing DADT.

Look at where it is on the Priorities of Americans. More think it is not important at all than think it is very important, according to Gallup. DADT is NOT the big issue that the press wants to make it. You can not push it through on the merits you see, because they are *not* shared to the extent that you would like them to be.

Even Some Democratic Senators would scuttle this if they could do so without too much stigma. You probably know who those guys are better than I do. They are more a threat than an "unreliable" Collins, and your use of that characterization paints you as very much a partisan political junkie!


Posted by: Clearbrook | December 7, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm an active duty servicemember and have been on four combat deployments. Just as when women were integrated into the service and given separate shower facilities, so should heterosexuals have separate facilities from gays and lesbians. If this is discriminatory, then aren't separate facilites for men and women discriminatory? Are Americans in general, and potential recruits specifically, ready to accept men & women sharing showers?

Posted by: robinjb10 | December 9, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

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