December 9, 2010
By Adam Bink
Updates will scroll from the bottom
Just now, the motion to reconsider regarding the National Defense Authorization Act, including repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was defeated, 57-40. An extremely frustrating defeat. Votes were along party lines along with newly inaugurated Sen. Manchin (D-WV) voting no and, in a surprise, Sen. Collins (R-ME) voting aye.
Prior to the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid took the floor to announce he would move forward on the motion to reconsider. I watched him live on C-SPAN2 and typed his comments quickly. His comments consisted of:
- Describing how “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a thing of the past and should be a thing of the post; how we have to match our policy with our principle, repealing it will make our military stronger
- Describing the tax cut letter and lamented how Republicans had signed it and stood by it, asking what sense did it make when “we” have as many things to do as we do
- Noting that “we tried every possible way to move forward on ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]
- Describing the other parts of the defense authorization bill
- Casting blame upon the Republicans, saying, “[Republicans] want to block a vote on this issue on all costs; “they’re doing all they can to stand in the way of this bill”
- Key lines: “We’ve gone through all these different iterations on amendments… we can’t do it. I offered to bring it up this summer with no restrictions, the Republicans refused. No matter what I did, I couldn’t win because the rules kept being changed… we don’t have time for unlimited debate. Some of the requests have been really unusual. Seven days of debate. Think about it! Seven in this lame-duck session… Over the last 20 years we’ve had roll call votes on as many as 20 amendments on the NDAA. I offered 15 amendments, 10 from Rs, 5 from Dems- which by the way the Dems weren’t happy about- ample time for debate on each amendment, never could get enough time, an hour, no, that’s not enough [I'd be told]… it’s quite clear that they’re trying to run out the clock.”
- He continues, “I want to be clear that my remarks should in no way be taken as criticism of my colleague, Sen. Collins. Quite the contrary, she’s tried… I believe she has been doing her very best, and I don’t want her to receive any criticism. But at the same time, [members are her caucus] are working to defeat this bill… I don’t know how I could have been any more reasonable. I regret to say that it’s our troops who will pay the price.”
- Collins steps forward and asks for recognition. She said she rushed to the floor once she heard Reid was speaking. Collins says she understands what Reid is proposing, so she would ask if Reid is proposing a procedure where there would be no amendments, or whether he’s proposing an agreement that she/Reid/Lieberman discussed yesterday that would allow for 10 amendments for Rs, and 5 for Dems, to “fill the tree”. She says she’s received conflicting information about how Reid intends to proceed on this important bill.
- Reid responds that he would fill the amendment “tree”, yes, as it’s the only way to control the amendments.
- Collins asks if it’s true he would allow 10 Republican amendments that are of the Republicans’ choice, so long as they are germane to the bill. This, as I wrote this morning, is one of Collins’ demands.
- Reid responds that he’s made a number of different offers. He reiterates the problem of the tax letter and how it’s blocking everything.
- Collins responds that it “seems evident to me that the Majority leader is not pursuing the path we discussed… I think that’s so unfortunate. I want to vote to proceed to this bill. I was the first Republican to announce my support for the carefully constructed language in the Senate Armed Services Committee that would repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’… I just do not understand why we can’t succeed along a path… that would allow us to get those 60 votes to proceed… I thought we were extremely close to getting a reasonable agreement yesterday that would allow us to proceed, I was even willing to consider a proposal by the Majority Leader that we would start on the DOD bill, got to the tax bill, finish that bill, then return to the DOD bill… so I think there was such a clear path to be able to get this bill done, and I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics. We should be able to do better, and Sen. Lieberman and I have been bargaining in good faith with the Majority Leader, he too has been creative in his approaches. I just want to say I am perplexed with what happened and why we’re not going forward in a constructive way that would lead to success.”
- Reid: “This is not any kind of legislative wrangle I’m having with my friend from Maine. She’s the only person I could talk to about this legislation. But this is the only way we could do it. I fill the tree, and we try to work through amendments. This has been taking months to do this. And the time has come to stop playing around.” He then proceeds to direct the clerk to call the roll on the motion to reconsider.
It appears the Majority Leader may not have been able to reach a compromise in the time spent negotiating today. Reading between the lines, it appears the biggest sticking point was whether the Majority Leader would “fill the tree” by selecting Republican and Democratic amendments for consideration, or the Republicans would select their own amendments so long as they were germane. The amount of debate time also appeared to be a sticking point, as did the problem of getting Republicans who signed the now-infamous tax cut letter to agree to proceed prior to the tax legislation being resolved. And it may all be up to the courts now. However, Collins voting aye may be a ray of hope.
I’ll update this thread with further news/statements that come out today.
Update: I learned Sens. Lieberman/Collins/Udall are holding a press conference, presumably to either declare efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” dead, or to announce talks are continuing… or something else.
Update 2: On the floor, Sen. Mark Udall says he is willing to stay through the holidays to pass repeal as a stand-alone bill. Something everyone should be for.
Update 3: At the press conference, which appears to be the former of the options in Update 1, Collins said, “The Majority Leader walked away from negotiations in which we were engaged and which were going well. There was clear path to action to action on this bill.”
Update 4: Given that the SASC has already voted in support of repeal itself, and there are 60 apparent votes to repeal the law on the floor, a stand-alone bill seems prescient. Which, over Twitter, is exactly what Sens. Lieberman and Collins plan to do.
I will be updating with more info on procedure/timeline on such a bill. To the best of my knowledge, it would need to pass both houses. Not clear on whether that includes committees in both houses. Such language has already passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Update 5: According to Sam Stein of Huffington Post, Sen. Reid will co-sponsor the stand-alone bill and bring it to the floor in lame duck. So, we’ve got another shot at this. “Not dead yet!”-Monty Python. Also, Sam speaks to a senior Hill aide, who says Manchin might not have voted the way he did if he were the 60th vote. Very inspiring. That aside, if that’s true, and Collins didn’t vote aye just for show, then we would be one vote short. All this might be moot, though, if there’s no movement to reconsider and we move onto the next game plan, which is a stand-alone bill.
Update 6: Lincoln just took the floor to say she would have voted aye if present, by the way. Brownback and Cornyn didn’t show, but we know they’re nos. That would have made the final vote count 58-42 if all were present.
Update 7: Sen. Lieberman tweeted that the Majority Leader just told him he will “Rule 14″ a free-standing bill, meaning it can come to the Senate floor without having to go through committee. The Armed Services Committee would have voted in favor of such legislation, but now this saves time.
Update 8: I need to go offline for a few hours, but the skinny is that I’m exploring a timeline and ways on which a standalone bill could be passed, as well as action by the other body. More to come later. This thread will no longer update.