Lisa Murkowski Endorses DADT Repeal, Ultimate Fate Still In Doubt
Theoretically there are now enough votes to invoke cloture on the Defense Authorization Bill and proceed to debate and a final vote on the measure, which includes the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Proponents of repeal needed four votes to overcome the defeat that was suffered in September and, this week they got Susan Collins and Scott Brown, Mark Pryor, and now Lisa Murkowski:
“After reviewing the DOD report and the testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, I have concluded that it is time to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law. We expect all who serve to serve with integrity, but under current law gay and lesbian service members may speak about their sexual orientation only at the risk of being discharged from performing the duties they have trained hard to carry out. America is the loser when it denies those who are willing to make the great sacrifices demanded of our men and women in uniform the opportunity do so on grounds of sexual orientation. I agree with Defense Secretary Gates’ view that the military can successfully implement a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law provided that proper preparations are implemented.
“However, my support for moving the Defense Authorization bill forward, which includes a repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, will depend on whether the majority allows for an open and fair amendment process. This is a weighty, policy-laden bill that normally takes several weeks to debate and amend. If the majority attempts to push it through allowing little or no debate or votes on amendments, I will be inclined to oppose those efforts.”
That last part is important because even though Democrats have the votes, the entire process could be scuttled on procedural grounds:
Senior Senate Democratic aides are in a panic this morning about the prospects for repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, because talks with Senator Susan Collins over her procedural demands have hit a wall, with the Democratic leadership dismissing her requests as unreasonable and counterproductive, a senior Dem aide close to the talks tells me.
The talks are continuing as we speak, so all is not lost yet. Indeed, the logjam in the discussions comes as Dem leaders have stepped up their efforts to get moderate Republicans to agree to vote for cloture on repeal, with President Obama personally calling Senators on both sides, the aide says.
Collins has said she supports repeal, but won’t agree to vote for cloture on the Defense Authorization Bill containing repeal if Harry Reid doesn’t allow ample time for open debate and amendments on the bill.
In private discussions between Collins and Reid this morning, and between their staffs over the weekend, Collins has demanded that Reid allow what’s known as “unlimited debate” on the bill in order for her to vote for repeal, the aide close to the talks says.
Reid has rejected this demand, the aide continues.
Reid has offered Collins a total of 15 amendments in order to get her to vote Yes — 10 for Repubicans and five for Democrats, the aide continues. Reid views this as a reasonable offer, because previous debates on defense authorization bills have had roughly this number of amendments offered, the aide adds.
But as of now, Collins has indicated this offer is “unsatisafctory,” the aide says. A Collins spokesperson denied this account in an email, but declined to elaborate.
Talks are apparently still ongoing, and I would suspect that a vote would only take place if they know they’ll be able to go forward on cloture simply because suffering a second defeat would be disastrous for the Democratic leadership. I also suspect that, given the uproar over the tax cut deal, Harry Reid will do whatever he can to make sure the bill gets past a cloture vote.