They already passed an amendment to repeal DADT back in May, but that was part of a broader defense bill. Today’s vote was on the standalone DADT bill that Lieberman and Collins are hoping to put in front of the Senate next week. The vote in May: 234-194, with just five Republicans voting yes. The vote today: 250-175, with 15 Republicans in the majority. (Among the 10 who flipped to yes this time: Jeff Flake.) It was smart of Pelosi to force a vote in the House, just as it was smart of Reid to table the vote on the DREAM Act so that the House could go first. In each case, the fact that the lower chamber’s already passed a corresponding bill ratchets up the pressure on Senate fencesitters.
In fact, it’s already paying dividends. Olympia Snowe was one of the 40 no votes last week on the defense bill that had a DADT repeal provision in it, but suddenly on the standalone bill she’s had a change of heart:
“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, I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” Snowe said in a statement.
Remember, the sticking point for Scott Brown and Murkowski (but not Collins!) has been the procedural posture of the DADT vote, not the substance. They claim they’re in favor of repeal, but they want the tax deal finalized — which could happen tomorrow — and they wanted more time for debate on the broader defense bill. I’m not sure how those procedural objections will translate to the new standalone DADT bill. It could be that Brown, Murkowski, and Snowe all vote yes, which would actually put Reid at 61 votes for cloture, or they could all vote no for whatever procedural reason, leaving Reid stuck at 58. Or maybe Snowe alone will join Collins in voting yes, putting Reid one thin vote away from the magic number. If that happens, the pressure on Manchin to switch from no to yes will be overwhelming, especially since one of his aides said after last week’s vote that he probably would have voted differently if he had been the 60th vote. Long story short, anything can happen, but they’re tantalizingly close to finally getting this done. Exit question: After threatening to hold the lame duck session over until January 4th if need be to deal with the START treaty and other business, Reid basically has to bring this bill to the floor now, right? Gay activists aren’t going to accept “we ran out of time” as an excuse.