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DADT repeal passes, DREAM Act fails

Some history was made yesterday.

The Senate took a big step toward ending the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers today. By a vote of 63 to 33, the Senate voted to end debate on a bill repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, opening the door for a final Senate vote on the standalone repeal bill passed by the House Tuesday. That means a simple majority of 51 Senators can now bring the legislative fight on repealing DADT to an end.

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Voting with the majority of Democrats were Republicans Scott Brown (MA), Mark Kirk (IL) George Voinovich (OH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) were absent.

The vote will likely be seen as a major political victory for President Obama, who pushed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the campaign trail and set a year-long timetable for a legislative repeal of the policy in his State Of The Union back in January. It appears he’s about to get his wish.

For proponents of repeal, it’s important to note that the Senate vote — and President Obama’s almost certain signature on the bill — do not necessarily mean an immediate end to the military’s ban on open homosexuality. Rather, it puts the final repeal timetable entirely on President Obama’s plate. As Commander in Chief of the military, he’ll work out a final repeal timetable with the Pentagon chiefs who will implement it. You can expect the groups that have been pressuring Congress to pass repeal to now turn their attention to Obama, calling on him to end DADT as soon as possible.

Manchin was the only Democratic No vote before, when DADT repeal was part of the omnibus military spending bill. That means that all Democrats present, plus those six Republicans, made this happen. That was the cloture vote; the final vote was 65-31 in favor. Good on all of them for being on the right side of history. Kos and Steve Benen have more.

I wish I could say the same thing about the DREAM Act, but alas I cannot.

By a vote of 55 to 41, a cloture vote on the DREAM Act failed in the Senate this morning. That brings an end to the push for the legislation — which would provide a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who serve in the military or earn college degrees — until the 112th Congress, which will convene Jan. 5.

That Congress will have more Republicans than this one did, which doesn’t bode well for the prospects of the DREAM Act passing in 2011. As expected, Republicans lined up to stop the cloture vote on DREAM, fearful of being singed by a conservative base that has zero tolerance for immigration reform beyond the type favored in the Grand Canyon State.

Ironically — or perhaps predictably in the current Senate environment — DREAM was a bipartisan bill when it was introduced in the Senate in 2007 by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). Now, defeat of the bill has fallen along largely partisan lines as expected.

But there were a few who jumped ship — Republican Sens. Dick Lugar (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Bob Bennett (UT) voted yes on cloture. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (AR), Jon Tester (MT), Ben Nelson (NE), Kay Hagan (NC), and Max Baucus (MT) all voted no. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) were absent.

It’s deeply disappointing that there were enough Republican votes to break the filibuster, but five Democratic No votes sunk it. Remember, as with everything in the Senate, this wasn’t the vote on the bill itself. This was merely the vote to begin debate on the bill. There was a time when these votes were routine, and the vote that mattered was the vote on the bill itself. That time was before the 111th Congress was sworn in and the Republican Party made obstruction of everything its top priority. I’m angry at the five Democrats who voted along with the Republicans – they should be ashamed of themselves, and they deserve to lose support for their actions – but it shouldn’t matter. There were 55 votes in favor of the DREAM Act, and that should have been more than enough. In any place but the US Senate, it would have been.

Note that in a few weeks, the Texas Lege will be sworn in, and the Texas Senate will adopt its rules of order. They will very likely go along with the wishes of a certain Senator from Harris County who has been the arch-nemesis of that body’s two thirds rule, on the grounds that the majority should be allowed to rule. I trust that the irony will not be lost on anyone.

Anyway. As expected, both of Texas’ Republican Senators voted no on each of these bills. Someone should remind newest Republican Aaron Pena that this is the side he has chosen to be on. In a better world, Texas would have been represented in this debate by Sen. Rick Noriega, who was the author of the Texas version of the DREAM Act in 2003, which passed overwhelmingly. Sadly, that was not to be, and the Republican Party that once supported and even co-sponsored legislation like the DREAM Act is no longer around, either. News Taco and PDiddie have more, while Kos singles out two of the Democrats who made the wrong choice.

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