Republican Judy Biggert helps brings DADT repeal back to life

December 16, 2010

Lordy, anything could happen with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the bill with nine lives.Right now, the damn thing depends entirely on Dem majority leader Harry Reid in the Senate, who has not yet committed to take an actual vote.

Yes, Reid’s for repeal; yes, he forced an important vote last week to get a head count; and, yes, the House passed a stand alone bill yesterday with a vote of 250 to 174, adding 15 new Republicans yeas who may have seen the writing on the wall and would rather be on the right side of history.

“It is never too late to do the right thing,” Dem House leader Steny Hoyer encouraged his colleagues.

Judy Biggert (pictured, above) was the sole Illinois Republican representative to hear his call and vote yes. In our state, everybody else went straight party line: Dems Melissa Bean, Jerry Costello, Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Debbie Halverson, Phil Hare, Jesse Jackson Jr., Dan Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky all voted yes; GOPers Tim Johnson, Don Manzullo, Peter Roskam, Aaron Schock and John Shimkus all voted no.

The House vote had an astonishingly comfortable margin, especially considering the long drawn out controversy surrounding the very idea of allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the armed forces.

Still, Reid has a huge agenda and a particularly obstinate bunch of Republicans in the senate. And while his margin of error is thinner, his time is also much tighter. Democrats have volunteered to stay through the holidays but Republicans want to end the lame duck session this week and not have to come back after the break.

And, yes, in the last few days Republican Olympia Snowe, the big tease from Maine who had been wildly rumored to be a yes on repeal even as she voted and endlessly spoke out against it, finally came out of the closet with support.

“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs,” she said in a statement, “I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”

If she doesn’t find a million procedural reasons to go back on this—like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown of Massachusetts did last week to undermine their own support of repeal—then the Senate has a sure 59 votes.

And since Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the only Democrat to vote no on repeal, said he wouldn’t be the one who obstructs it (though he’s against it … sigh), then that’s 60.

So Murkowski and Brown would be gravy, as would Richard Lugar of Indiana, the grand old Hoosier statesman who’s been making pro-repeal noises of late, and, probably, with his vote rendered meaningless, our man in Washington, Mark Kirk. (In fact, the more meaningless the impact of his vote, the more likely Kirk will vote for repeal.)

But all this assumes Reid can actually get a vote on the floor. After the tax bill—finally passed yesterday -- there's the spending authorization to keep the government going, the DADT -free authorization to keep the military going, the START nuclear arms treaty, the DREAM Act, and John McCain. 

And don't underestimate McCain.

Just last night on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” daughter Meghan McCain was saying it’s quite likely her father will attempt to filibuster the vote. DADT seems extremely personal to McCain, and that wild card is still in play.

While I keep hoping but not believing this sucker will pass, the fact that it keeps coming back to life like a bad “Rocky” sequel makes me queasy about any more predictions: All bets are off, my friends.