Dems' DADT Arithmetic
7:01 PM, Nov 30, 2010 • By MICHAEL WARREN
If the Senate takes up the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in this lame duck session, there's a chance that some senators in both parties will cross the aisle. Here's the math:
To pass the defense authorization bill, of which repeal is a provision, Democrats need 60 votes to override the filibuster, or at least two crossovers from the GOP to add to their 58-seat majority. Right now, at least five Republican senators are believed to be seriously considering voting for repeal: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, John Ensign of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Richard Lugar of Indiana. If two or more of these senators commit to voting for the bill and repeal, the Democrats have their supermajority.
Except that some Democrats may vote against repeal. Jim Webb of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas could all vote with Republicans on this issue. The question is which combination of these swing votes ultimately materializes.
Outside their respective policy luncheons today at the Capitol, senators from both parties spoke to THE WEEKLY STANDARD about the vote to repeal.
Lugar, who is up for reelection in 2012 and already facing the threat of a primary challenge, said both the Pentagon's report on DADT, released today, and the upcoming hearings (scheduled for Friday, Lugar said) on that report will influence his decision to vote. Does Lugar have an idea of how he's inclined to vote on repeal?
"I'm not inclined to indicate that," Lugar said. "But I'm thinking about it very seriously." Lugar, however, has expressed his support for moving the debate on the bill forward, the Washington Post reported.
Collins who has also said she will support moving the bill forward, expanded on her support for repeal. "I've supported the language in the committee," Collins said. "And I've said repeatedly that it depends on whether Senator Reid allows an open process to allow amendments."
Murkowski missed the earlier vote on repeal in September and has said she is opposed to moving the bill forward without an open amendments process, but she has not commented on whether she would vote for or against repeal on the merits of the policy. Murkowski said today she hasn't yet seen the Pentagon's report and does not know how she would vote on the defense bill. "Waiting to see [the report]," Murkowski said.
Among the Democrats, Pryor acknowledged he needed to look at the Pentagon's report and refusing to say how he would vote. "I need to read the report and I need to see how the hearings go and just get a feel for where we are," he said. "I do think that it’s important to let the Pentagon go through their process. I don’t know if this report is the end of their process or just a step in the process, I don’t even know that."
"I am just waiting to hear [about the report]," Manchin said. Manchin said that he wants to hear what the commanders on the front lines of combat have to say about repealing DADT before he decides. Webb declined to speak to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, who supports repeal, said she "[hasn't] had a chance to look at" the report yet.
"I have to read the report before I know how it will influence my vote," McCaskill said. "But as I've said before, gays have been serving in the military for decades. We have the strongest and best military in the world. I think it's time that all members of our military...can serve with integrity."
What about concerns, like those from General James Amos, that openly gay soldiers serving in combat units could hurt unit cohesion? "They're in combat units now, they're in close quarters now," McCaskill said, without addressing the concerns specifically about openly gay soldiers in those units.
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