Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How DADT Repeal Can Be Won

Edit 3: Four Republicans - Collins, Lugar, Murkowski, and Ensign - have now expressed that they will vote in favor of a repeal-inclusive NDAA, so long as proper debate time is allotted.  Therefore, it is crucial that we call Reid to make sure hew gives it to them: with four Republicans on our side, we won't need Lincoln, Pryor, OR Manchin.

Edit 2: Kerry Eleveld reports that Levin has asked Reid to schedule a vote on a repeal-inclusive NDAA after Thanksgiving recess, which Reid will do.  Therefore, I am taking Levin off the list of key senators (who had been there after indicating he may strip NDAA of DADT repeal), bringing it down to four.   

Edit: We've just learned that Reid will bring the Defense Auth bill, with DADT repeal, up for a vote in December, after the Pentagon study comes out.  What this means is that we will have one more Republican (Mark Kirk) and one less Democrat (Roland Burris) in the Senate, so we will need two Republicans (I point out below that this is most likely Collins and Lugar) on board, making it all the more important that we make these phone calls.  Please call the numbers listed below - we can repeal DADT, this year, but we all need to chip in.

A few days ago, I wrote a post, both on here and over at Pam’s House Blend, urging people not to give up on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. I outlined five key Senators who hold the fate of lame-duck repeal in their hands. I will now go into further detail as to why I selected these senators, and how they can be persuaded to vote for repeal (or at least cloture). Phone numbers to call are at the bottom in case you want to scroll past all of this.

The first key senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, wasn’t in the Senate back in September when the cloture vote failed. The substitute for Robert Byrd voted for cloture, but we don’t really know whether Manchin supports repeal. Manchin has been distancing himself from Obama and congressional Democrats (or at least he was when he was worried he might lose his election), so his vote should not be taken for granted. I believe he can be persuaded to support repeal if we make a strong case: here, a call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates could make a difference, especially since Gates himself is a Republican who supports repeal. Manchin is also from a more conservative state, and the fact that repeal is being channeled through the Defense Authorization bill might make him more likely to support cloture. All this is to say we may be able to get him on our side, and frankly we need to just to be back to where we were in September (three votes short), so it’s important we lobby him and make sure he votes with the Democrats.

Key senators two and three are also Democrats, who were in the Senate in September but who did not vote for cloture: those are Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Their ‘nay’ votes came as a surprise to many, particularly myself, given that one of Lincoln’s aides told me she would vote for repeal. The circumstances under which Lincoln and Pryor voted against cloture are still enigmatic. My belief is that Lincoln voted against cloture in a last-ditch effort to shore up votes in a race that was heavily favoring the Republican: she may have asked Pryor to do the same. We really don’t know. It is within the realm of possibility that Pryor and Lincoln could switch their votes now that the election is over. If there is a chance of this happening, let’s not waste it: let’s call them up and make our voices heard, tell them that if they want to win an election, they have to give their supporters what they promise. My belief is that if we get one, we can probably get the other, but let’s play it safe and lobby them both.

Key senator four, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, wouldn’t normally be a lobbying target, but lobbying him would actually help us get two Republicans on board. See, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Richard Lugar of Indiana have both stated they would support repeal if Reid allowed for debate, which he did not allow for back in September. Levin has also asked him to allow debate, knowing that it would help shore up support if Republicans were allowed to try to add amendments to NDAA.  Were Reid to allow debate, we would get Collins and Lugar on board, without having to lobby them. Lobby Reid, get Collins and Lugar.  Both Collins and Lugar will be necessary in getting 60 votes, as Senator Mark Kirk takes Roland Burris’ Illinois seat after Thanksgiving. So call Reid and tell him to allow debate, putting us over the top for cloture.

While we’re at it, let’s call the White House – tell Obama to make some phone calls. We’ve received word that he did so today, calling Levin and advising him to keep repeal in the Defense Auth bill. That’s really important – the President is one of the most powerful lobbyists there is – but he needs to continue to show strong support for repeal if we’re going to make this happen. And to do that, he needs to know we are on his side and are expecting him to keep his campaign promise of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which he can’t do after the new Congress comes in.

So here are the numbers. There are four (I haven’t been able to find a number for Manchin yet – all the more reason to call Obama and make sure he’s lobbying the Democrats that need persuading), eight if you count the moderate Republicans who may switch their cloture votes. You could call all of them in less than 15 minutes. Please do so. While we don’t know for sure that it is possible to change these senators’ minds, there is no good reason not to try.

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353

EXTRA (Republicans who may support repeal)
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

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