The senate cloture vote on the defense authorization bill went down this afternoon, 57 to 40, largely along party lines, most likely killing any hope of passing repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in this session, and probably for years, given the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
Kate Dickens, spokesperson for Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, was quick to point out that the vote itself was not “against DADT, it is a procedural vote to consider the defense authorization bill.”
Although Kirk was one of the GOP votes that DADT supporters were hoping for, he clarified his position just before the cloture vote.
“The Senate’s top priority should be to prevent a large tax increase from hitting families and small business employers on January 1st,” Kirk said. “I promised the people of Illinois that job one would be jobs. I support the president’s proposal and will vote today to ensure the bipartisan tax bill takes precedence before considering non-economic legislation, including items I support like the 9/11 victims health bill.”
Kirk joined all GOP senators but Susan Collins of Maine to vote no on the defense cloture. Newly elected West Virginia Sen. Joe Machin was the sole Dem to vote no. Collins has been in negotiations with Dem leaders for weeks, and gave an impassioned and angry speech before the vote that suggested she’d vote no, then came down as a yay. Sen. Blanche LIncoln of Arkansas, a Democrat, came in after the vote was taken and declared that, had she been present, she would have voted for repeal.
Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski are on record in favor of repeal but voted against cloture, and in effect against DADT, in support of the Republican pledge to not take up any legislation until the tax bill, set to expire Dec. 31, is settled.
The Democratic caucus rejected the president’s tax compromise earlier today, sending everything back to square one. If the defense authorization bill isn’t resurrected in some way before the end of this lame duck session, it’ll be the first time in 48 years that the military is not funded.
Sen. Mark Udall from Colorado, a Democrat, suggested immediately after the cloture vote that the senate needed to stay in session to resolve these issues, perhaps past the holidays. He was also the first to to publicly suggest a stand alone version of DADT repeal, which Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, the DADT's man on the senate floor, has now said is a possibility.
If the DADT repeal stands alone and Democrats hold the line, that would be a total of 58 votes (assuming everyone's present). With Murkowski, who can do anything she wants given the particularities of her re-election, and Brown, who needs to vote yay for re-election in gay friendly Massachusetts, the bill would have all the votes it needs. Collins, who voted for it, would likely remain in the yay column (though those Maine gals are, er, a tad unpredictable).
Meaning that KIrk's vote wouldn't be necessary. Except perhaps to Kirk, back home in moderate Illinois.
(photo by Bill Healy)