Thursday, December 9, 2010

DADT Repeal Hinges on Renewing Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

What a day it was for back room deal making on Capital Hill Wednesday, as reports came out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was set to bring the National Defense Authorization Act to a vote last night. There was so much back and forth with what was or wasn't happening or going to happen throughout the day that it was like watching a really bad game of ping pong with your civil rights. By the end of the night, the only balls in play were being held firmly by Republican Susan Collins, who spent the afternoon negotiating with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who was picked by the president to oversee DADT repeal.

As it stands right now, the potential votes are so close that Collins and two other key Republicans will determine whether or not gay and lesbian troops can serve openly, but their support comes at a hefty price: the extension of the Bush tax cuts that President Obama promised to repeal during his campaign and for the first two years of his presidency.

Democrats are furious with the president for caving in to GOP blackmail. The Big O will be furiously working the phones over the next couple of days, desperately trying to convince his party that this is the best deal he could make. Obama is turning out to be the best president Republicans could have hoped for as he leaves his supporters in the rear view mirror.

If this deal goes through, it puts the LGBT community squarely in the cross hairs for retribution if this gamble on economic stimulus doesn't work. What the GOP also gets in this deal is the ability to offer up to 10 amendments to the defense bill, with the Dems getting only five. 

Collins released the following statement Wednesday night:
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who supports repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” released this statement tonight.

“Senator Joe Lieberman and I continue to negotiate in good faith with the Majority Leader to try and come up with a fair process under which the important Defense Authorization bill could be considered in the limited time remaining in this session. Without a fair process, the motion to proceed to the bill would likely fail in the U.S. Senate.

"Senator Lieberman and I requested a meeting with Senator Harry Reid last week during which we outlined a specific plan for allowing debate and amendments similar to how the Senate has considered the authorization bill in the past.

"It wasn’t until 1:35 pm today that I received a legitimate offer from Senator Reid, which I consider a good starting point. We made a counter offer which would provide sufficient time for debate, and includes protections to help ensure that Republicans would be able to offer a limited but fair number of amendments that are relevant to this legislation.

"I am encouraged that the Majority Leader decided to postpone the vote he had scheduled for tonight. I urged him to do this so that we could consider the tax legislation first, which I believe could be on the floor as early as tomorrow and completed quickly. At that point, I believe we could move immediately to the Defense Authorization bill under a fair agreement, and I would vote to do so. I would hope he carefully considers our proposal. I believe we have outlined a very clear path forward for the Majority Leader to take that would allow this very important debate to occur."

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