It’s very interesting to see how things are lining up in the Senate. You had the food safety bill pass with 73 votes. Scott Brown came out today in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The DREAM Act will get a vote next week, with somewhat persistent White House backing. The new START arms reduction treaty appears to have picked up legitimate Republican support, with 9 Republicans publicly signaling support. If you didn’t know better, you’d say there was an outbreak of bipartisanship in the Senate.

But all of this is happening under a threat of total obstruction. All you have to do is read Susan Collins’ statement on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to understand what’s going on here:

“After hearing powerful testimony from Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, and reviewing the results of the Pentagon report, I remain convinced that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy,” implemented under President Clinton, should be repealed. And, I agree with Secretary Gates that the issue should be decided by Congress, not the courts [...]

“Once the tax issue is resolved, I have made it clear that if the Majority Leader brings the Defense Authorization bill to the floor with sufficient time allowed for debate and amendments, I would vote to proceed to the bill.”

This kamikaze action by the Republicans is still holding, although as I’ve said, they pointedly exempted new START from that. Basically, there’s a dare being made here, to pass the tax cut extension or give up a number of policy agenda items, and what’s more, here are the specific Republican votes you would have if you agreed to that.

This is why Bob Menendez likened it to negotiating with terrorists today. It really is a hostage situation. And one that’s likely to succeed.

Jeff Merkley’s Senate rules reforms cannot come fast enough.