The Senate failed to move forward to consider the defense authorization bill today, imperiling the compromise over repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, moving forward of the DREAM Act, and hundreds of other issues relating to the military. Republicans held a united front against consideration of the bill, basing their opposition mainly on the lack of an open amendment process.
Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for unanimous consent to move to the bill as long as Republicans had the unlimited ability to offer amendments, with the first 20 based on what he considers “germane” amendments, and with none of the amendments “relating to immigration.” That last part was clearly a swipe at the DREAM Act, which does have a military component, as it allows a path to citizenship for undocumented students if they either complete higher education or enlist in military service. The Defense Department specifically includes the DREAM Act as an important component of meeting the goals of an all-volunteer force.
Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected the request, saying that it would “change how we’ve done legislation for a long time,” and he moved to the cloture vote. Despite multiple Republicans supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and others supporting the DREAM Act, all of them opposed to even consider the defense authorization bill, voting against cloture. While advocates tried to pressure Senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Scott Brown, “they ran and they hid behind this procedural decision,” according to Sen. Dick Durbin in a speech after the vote.
The cloture vote failed, by a count of 56-43. In addition to all 41 Republicans, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, currently trailing by 30 points in her re-election in Arkansas, voted no. Reid also voted no, specifically so he could bring up the bill at a later time.
Durbin said that “As long as I can stand behind this desk… I will be pushing for this DREAM Act. I hope that 11 Republicans will stop cowering in the shadows.” Reid added that “We’re going to vote on the DREAM act, it’s only a question of when.”
UPDATE: Per Joe Sudbay, apparently Mark Pryor voted against cloture as well, giving Lincoln some cover. One GOPer was absent.
Sudbay quotes one gay rights advocate calling it a “political train wreck.” Agreed.