So the motion to bring the defense spending bill to the Senate floor failed this afternoon. All 41 of the Senate’s Republicans — and two conservative Democrats from Arkansas — voted no.
So why did this happen, and where does it leave the reforms?
The why it happened part is easy. With liberals across the country depressed by the economy and frustrated by the Obama administration’s lack of progress on major legislation, the last thing the GOP wanted to do was give the Democrats a victory on two huge issues just six weeks before election day. Senate majority leader Harry Reid knew this, but he also knew that trying and failing would be better politics than not trying at all, so he made the push, fingers crossed.
As for where it leaves the reforms, that’s a bit harder to say. The Democrats are promising to bring the bill forward again after the elections, with DADT repeal and the DREAM Act intact. It’s possible that they may have more luck then in bringing moderate Republicans on board — there’s no question, for instance, that Senators Collins and Snowe of Maine would like to vote for these bills. (They’ve done it before, for starters.) There’s also no question about whether such votes would play well for them at home with Maine voters. (They would.)
The only reason they — and several other Republicans — voted no today was party discipline. It’s possible that they’ll get a bit more leeway after November 2. Several Senators, including John McCain, also expressed a desire to hold off on the DADT vote until after a Pentagon study of the issue is released on December 1.
On the other hand, the Republicans are likely to pick up about half a dozen seats in the Senate this year, and there will be lots of ways — and reasons — for the GOP to stall Democrat-supported legislation until the new Senators are seated in January.
It’s not over, in other words, but things don’t look all that great.
Update | There’s a rumor going around on Twitter that Republican senator Mitch McConnell offered to bring the defense bill to the floor with all other provisions (including Don’t Act Don’t Tell repeal) intact if Reid agreed to drop the DREAM Act. This story is false — McConnell’s proposal was a poison pill, and rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the DREAM Act. It appears to be nothing more than an attempt to encourage gay supporters of DADT repeal to blame Latinos for its failure. Disgusting.
Second Update | Another rumor spreading on Twitter is that Harry Reid “killed” the bill by voting against it. The reality is that when he saw it was going to fail, he voted against it as a parliamentary maneuver, so that he could later introduce a motion to reconsider it. It’s standard Robert’s Rules of Order stuff, nothing nefarious.