‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal a dead lame duck: Senate leaders
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate say Democrats do not have enough votes to overturn the congressional ban on homosexuals serving in the U.S. military in the upcoming lame-duck session.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, appeared on CNN’s Sunday “State of the Union” program, where he said that plans to overturn the ban, best known by its Pentagon enforcement policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), were harmful to the overstretched U.S. military fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The military is at its highest point in recruitment, in retention, in professionalism, in capability,” McCain said to CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.” “To somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false.”
McCain also took a shot at the report coming out from the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group, saying the working group’s efforts were geared toward removing DADT, not disinterestedly examining its impact on the military.
“I want to know the effect on battle effectiveness and morale, not on how best to implement the change in policy,” McCain added.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on the Fox News Sunday program that he believes the GOP will remain united in its opposition to repealing DADT during the lame-duck session. The session began with the end of the Thanksgiving holiday and concludes when Congress recesses for Christmas. It is the last chance of the outgoing Congress to pass legislation before their terms expire on January 3.
“I think in a lame-duck setting, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is not going anywhere,” Graham stated.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrat Senate leaders are putting pressure on liberal-leaning Republicans to break with their caucus to undermine any GOP filibuster.
Breaking the GOP filibuster is more easily said than done. Reid needs 60 votes, but the GOP caucus has 42 seats out of 100 in the U.S. Senate. On top of that, two Senate Democrats, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, broke with Reid to join the GOP filibuster and oppose repeal of DADT in September.
They may do so again, and with newly elected Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) immediately replacing Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) in December, Reid has at best only 56 Democrats behind him.
Although Kirk is friendly overall to homosexual issues, he opposed repealing DADT during his election bid, and pledged to oppose any new legislation during the lame duck session.
Reid also may not be able to count on newly-elected U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). The conservative-leaning Democrat will have to face re-election in 2012 for a full six-year term, and vehemently denied GOP charges on the campaign trail that he would be a “rubber-stamp” for Reid and his agenda.
A Manchin spokeswoman told West Virginia’s Register-Herald, “The senator doesn’t believe the rules should be changed until the battlefield commanders can certify it doesn’t hurt unit cohesion.”
Senate Democrats are looking for Tuesday’s release of the Pentagon’s report as a potential game-changer in the U.S. Senate in their strategy to repeal DADT.
“Three things have to happen: We’ve got to get the report, we’ve got to have a hearing on the report and a couple of days to digest it, and we’ve got to have fair amendment opportunities,” U.S. Sen. Carl Levin told The Hill.
Democrats are looking to target seven GOP Senators: Richard Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), John Ensign (Nev.), the two Senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown (Mass.), and George Voinovich (Ohio).
Before the Thanksgiving recess, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said key to breaking the GOP filibuster would be offering “an open and fair amendment process” in order to get more liberal GOP members on board with Reid’s Democrats.
However, conceding a hearing and amendment process may end up running out the clock on DADT’s repeal. Both House and Senate Democrats have an ambitious legislative agenda to pass in the next four weeks. If the Senate enacts a bill with GOP amendments, the legislation would have to be reconciled with a House version before the Christmas recess, and more votes would have to be taken to approve an identical bill.