What on earth was he thinking?
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins had been seen as the crucial 60th vote because she supports overturning the military ban. But Collins sided with her GOP colleagues in arguing that Republicans weren’t given sufficient leeway to offer amendments to the wide-ranging policy bill.
The vote fell mostly along party lines, although Arkansas Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor sided with Republicans to block the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted against the measure as a procedural tactic. Under Senate rules, casting his vote with the majority of the Senate enables him to revive the bill at a later date.
Murkowski didn’t vote because she’s out of town, working on terrible ads for her power-at-all-costs write-in campaign. Reid’s strategy in bundling the defense bill together with the DREAM Act and repealing DADT was, I assume, aimed at forcing a Republican no vote which he can now use to motivate liberals and Latinos in Nevada to turn out for him in November. Which would make sense, I guess, if not for one thing: Wouldn’t he have been better off trying to pass the DREAM Act and repeal of DADT as standalone measures? In theory he has Collins as vote number 60 for the latter, and he would have stood a chance of attracting a few Republican defectors on the former if only because the GOP is nervous about its image with Hispanics. As it is, by packaging them all together, Reid actually ended up creating political cover for moderates like Collins to vote no by citing procedural objections. And don’t think his base hasn’t noticed:
“The whole thing is a political train wreck,” said Richard Socarides, a former White House adviser on gay rights during the Clinton administration.
Socarides said President Barack Obama “badly miscalculated” the Pentagon’s support for repeal, while Democrats made only a “token effort” to advance the bill.
“If it was a priority for the Democratic leadership, they would get a clean vote on this,” he said.
Says Ben Smith, the vote demonstrated “the limits of Democratic power even with a wide Senate margin.” There’s a ringing campaign pitch for the lefty base to go out and re-elect Democrats this year, no? Actually, here’s the real reason that Reid bundled all these bills together — I think: He was worried that if he split them all up and held individual votes on each, they’d be filibustered anyway because of Democratic opposition, not Republican. That would be a double defeat for Reid, not only losing on the vote itself but signaling to his party that he’s a weak majority leader who can’t deliver even on basic liberal items like DADT and the DREAM Act. Consider that he probably picked up a few votes on his own side in favor of this bill precisely because it was framed in the larger context of defense spending; Ben Nelson voted yes because now he can claim he did it “for the troops,” but imagine him having to take a straight up-or-down vote on DADT or amnesty with re-election in 2012. Imagine the embarrassment for Reid if he got Collins and Snowe to vote with him on DADT and lost the vote anyway because Nelson, Lincoln, and Pryor all said no. A vote on DREAM, which could have won multiple Republicans — and lost even more Democrats — would have been even dicier. (Speaking of which, why is Blanche Lincoln still voting with Republicans? Does she really not understand she’s going to lose in November regardless?) Reid likely figured that his best bet here was to lard the bill up with controversial liberal wish list items in hopes of unifying the Republican opposition so that he could then blame their failure solely on GOP obstructionism. If that was the plan, it worked. Anyone seriously believe it’ll do him much good?
Update: Reid’s predictably lame spin: Republicans hate the troops or something. Anyone see that catching on before the midterms?