In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the law of the land that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
A bill to do that has been introduced in the house,H.R. 1283, sponsored by Ellen Tauscher. As we all now know from the health care spectacle, currently 216 ayes are necessary to pass legislation in the House. Right now there are 191 cosponsors of that bill, leaving 24 votes to be found for passage.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate, S.3065, sponsored by Joe Lieberman. It has 25 co-sponsors, leaving, coincidentally, an identical 24 votes to be found for passage, and 34 votes to be found for cloture.
While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen both support repeal and so testified before Congress, they have taken the position that a year-long 'study' must be done before the military can be prepared to handle the consequences of doing so. They may or may not honestly believe this to be the case, but the practical effect (without any pushback from the administration) is to give the House and Senate every reason not to deal with this issue until said 'study' is complete.
In a further development, Secretary Gates today unveiled a new set of restrictions on the ability of the military to consider evidence outing a gay serviceperson. It's a plausible step, but one that could be reversed at any time, especially if a Republican administration were to take office. And it doesn't do anything to change the law; in fact, it gives still further impetus for Congress to do nothing and for the military to draw out its study and/or make a joke out of it. See this Pam's House Blend essay for a more detailed analysis about this.
All this might be barely tolerable if we knew that repeal would follow immediately upon conclusion of a date-limited study, but there is absolutely no guarentee of this. First, who knows what the study will find? Perhaps it will conclude that the military will not be ready for such a change for two more years. Second, even if the results of the study are favorable, by the time it is released a new House and Senate will be seated. And that new House and Senate will very likely consist of less Democrats, and very likely less votes in favor of repeal, than exist now. There is absolutely no reason to have faith that repeal will even be considered, let alone voted on, in the next Congress. Yes, the results of the study might give a few more Congressman and Senators an out to vote for repeal, but that gain could easily be wiped out by having some supporters of repeal no longer in office. In another year, repeal of DADT could well be no closer to repeal by Congress than it is now.
So what is to be done?
I tried to determine which, if any, of the remaining 74 Senators that are not sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill support repeal of DADT. I came up almost completely empty-handed. I examined the On The Issues site and only a single Democratic Senator who wasn't a co-sponsor, Senator Whitehouse, was cited as having a position on DADT -- fortunately it was for repeal.
I then tried Googling to see if some of these non-sponsoring Democratic Senators might have expressed a recent position on a topic that is very much in the news and very much on their plates. No luck at all. Even Senators whom you might imagine would be in favor: Bennet, Harkin, Kloubachar, Mikluski, Reed, Reid, and Shaheen don't seem to have said anything of relevance or taken any kind of stand.
I also thought about which Republican Senators might possibly support repeal, and came up with only three: Brown, Collins, and Snowe. But they have no recorded positions on the issue either that I could find.
The first step in passing a bill is to understand who will support passage, who might be convinced, and who there is no point in wasting your time on.
Somewhere there may be an accurate list of who will vote for repeal, and who will not stand in the way by voting for cloture. But if there is I don't know about it. Perhaps it is kept in a secret vault deep underground at HRC headquarters in Washington. Or encoded in the luyrics of Lady Gaga's songs when you play her DVD's backward. (If you know of any secret list, I'm all ears and URL's.)
I don't know for sure whether it's better to start with the House or the Senate. Obviously with each we have to reach at least a majority to demonstrate that repeal is realistic. But it's a lot easier to deal with at most 100 Senators than it is to track 435 Representatives. And there are a lot fewer Democratic Senators in absolute numbers who are not co-sponsors than there are Democratic Representatives who are not. So it seems easiest to concentrate on the Senate to begin with.
Is it possible to demonstrate that there are 50 votes in the Senate for repeal, and 60 votes for cloture? Or even close? Or at least better than a mere 26 or 27?
I've put together a list of the co-sponsors if S.3065, DADT repeal, below.
Below that table is a list of the remaining Democratic Senators, and a list of a few Republican Senators who I think might vote for repeal at some point.
If you are aware of any of these Senators' position on DADT repeal, and specifically whether they will state, on record, that they would vote AYE on S.3065 if it were brought to the floor, or if they would vote to limit debate (cloture) even if they would not vote for the bill itself, I would love to know about it in the comments.
If you know of any Republican Senator other than one I've listed who might be induced to vote for repeal, also let me know.
If there is any favorable information I will update, and hope to publish future diaries tracking any progress made, both in the House and the Senate.
Senate bill S.3065 (DADT repeal): 1 Sponsor, 25 co-sponsors
Sponsor: Lieberman, Joe CT
|Cardin, Benjamin L.||MD|
|Casey, Robert P., Jr.||PA|
|Dodd, Christopher J.||CT|
|Feingold, Russell D.||WI|
|Gillibrand, Kirsten E.||NY|
|Kerry, John F.||MA|
|Lautenberg, Frank R.||NJ|
|Leahy, Patrick J.||VT|
|Schumer, Charles E.||NY|
Other Senators, and their On The Issues position, or other indication : just 1 Senator on record in favor, 5 likely repeal votes.
|Akaka:||Aye? (1993 Boxer Amendment)|
|Harkin:||Aye? (1993 Boxer Amendment)|
|Inouye:||Aye? (1993 Boxer Amendment)|
|Mikulski:||Aye? (1993 Boxer Amendment)|
|Murray:||Aye? (1993 Boxer Amendment)|
Note: Interesting poll results today. 75% of Californians now support repeal of DADT.
This illustrates why getting support for repeal in the Senate is so hard compared to the House. California's two Senators, Boxer and Feinstein, representing some 37 million people, are advocates and sponsors. Whereas Wyoming's two Senators, Enzi and Barrasso, representing less than 1 million people, are unlikely to support repeal. But each has an equal say in this matter.
Somewhere between 57% and 70% of people nationwide support repeal of DADT, depending on which polls you believe.