Posted by Brad @ 11:33 am on September 21st 2010

McCain’s Filibuster of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal

By the by, the Senate has added a provision to the Defense Authorization Bill which would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (odd that they didn’t seem to believe they could do that in the first year of Obama’s administration). John McCain, of course, has been a fair weather friend – or perhaps we shall call him frenemy – to DADT repeal, being one of the few Republicans that at least didn’t seem to foreclose on the possibility in the last decade and made himself seem open to the possibility. But like a lot about John McCain, his principles often appear less important than being the middle of something, and with nearly 60 votes, the President, the military brass, and 75% of Americans (and hell, a majority of the military), John McCain has decided that he can best put himself in the middle of the issue by filibustering it, which is what he is currently doing. McCain argues that he’s just doing it because it will hurt military readiness in wartime ™, and also that military brass are not sufficiently onboard. Unstated in that argument is the fact that the amendment under discussion offers two specific caveats – that repeal won’t come until the completion of the military study Obama commissioned (in December), and then only if that report comes back in its favor and the Pentagon signs off on it.

Anyway, we’ll see this afternoon if the Senate can get 60 votes to overturn the obstinate maverick. If not, we’ll have him to thank for the lack of repeal.


  1. There’s still time to call your Senator, the vote to break fillibuster is at 2:15. I’m not usually one to ask people to get involved, but please call if you get a chance.

    (202) 224-3121

    Comment by Liz — 9/21/2010 @ 11:43 am

  2. The only upside to this: I can’t fucking wait until DADT is repealed anyway, and John “Friend of the Military” McCain does events with servicemen and has to answer, to their faces, to the now openly gay soldiers why he thinks they don’t deserve to be there.

    It’s one thing when they’re in the closet and hidden (or resigned). It’s another entirely when they’re in a crowd, in uniform, and demanding answers, wanting you to have to go on record, to their faces, in saying you don’t respect their service. To all those Republicans who think this is ingratiating them with the military, you just wait five years, and have fun with that.

    Comment by Brad — 9/21/2010 @ 11:54 am

  3. It’ll be a gorgeous thing to behold.

    I can’t believe this is the same guy I was happy to see on the Republican ticket for president. He’s just become a sad caricature of a desperate politician, struggling to remain relevant. I remain glad that he is not the president, even as I wince at Obama.

    Comment by Liz — 9/21/2010 @ 12:29 pm

  4. Motion failed.

    Because, under our new Republican System, you need 60 votes to do anything. Thanks guys.

    And, fuck you John McCain.

    Comment by Brad — 9/21/2010 @ 6:36 pm

  5. Let’s assume the Republicans take control of the Senate at some point. How long do you think it will be before we start hearing cries about obstructionist filibustering Democrats blocking the will of a Senate majority, and threats of a “nuclear option”?

    Actually, I’m not sure which would irritate me more–if such objections were heard, or if they weren’t (which would mean the constant filibuster threat had become SOP).

    As to failing to repeal DADT, I am sad sad sad.

    Comment by Talarohk — 9/21/2010 @ 8:04 pm

  6. Not to worry. As Brad has posted, over my contradictory sentiments, the repeal of DADT is popular with the voting public, which means an obstreporous Republican minority just used procedural chicanery to block a popular bill.

    So this is a big political win for the Dems. Right, Brad?

    Seriously, though: the problem here is that a good bill wasn’t passed, not that the filibuster exists. When I see one of you complain about the filibuster being used to block a bill you OPPOSE, then I’ll buy into the “filibuster bad” sentiment.

    Comment by Rojas — 9/21/2010 @ 8:52 pm

  7. As Brad has posted, over my contradictory sentiments, the repeal of DADT is popular with the voting public

    It is popular, and you’re right, they did just block a popular bill and I expect that will hurt him and certainly further solidify them in the minds of voters as as obstinate generally and anti-gay specifically. And part of the reason it WAS blocked is because it IS popular – the Republicans have calculated, and perhaps rightly, that whatever harm they incur from blocking it will be less than whatever harm they get by allowing Democrats an easy and popular political accomplishment. I can’t really think of a more cynical or disgusting calculation, particularly when there are real lives involved, but they may well be right about the political strategy. Which begs the question: if Republicans aren’t willing to let something like this pass, what would they?

    Regardless, I wasn’t primarily talking about political wins either way. I was talking about how Republicans managed to kill a measure such as DADT seemingly solely out of spite and because the people whose lives it would better and who would be happier with America if it passed might give the credit to the other party. If you care about the political wins, fair enough. If, however, you care about that being a really, really shitty thing to do…

    Oh, as for the filibuster, we are now operating in a system where majority rules no longer decides any legislative matter of any note; our country is now operating under a 60% majority rule. And btw, that’s not 60% to pass, that’s 60% to vote or debate. Most Libertarians, of course, are I’m sure tickled about that, but as you’re quick to point out, that cuts both ways. And seeing as how the hardest and yet most pressing and most vital measures under legislative purview are particularly susceptible to veto and hidden vetoes – namely any measures that seek to strip away any centralized power – I’m surprised Ls aren’t in the least bit concerned. Sure, it’s obnoxious in the case of DADT (and, like I said, a shitty thing to do) – it’ll be an immovable objection when it comes to trying to remove their mouths from the public teat.

    But more fundamental, I tend to think that any measure that makes the system less democratic is a step in the wrong direction. Ironically (and counter-instuitively), the filibuster puts more power in the hands of less people, and it puts more issues outside the ability of our direct elected representatives to handle. Now if, as Libertarians imagine, that simply means that the government stops doing stuff, great. But I’ve no idea why that unexamined premise holds. More likely, it just puts more power in the less representative branches. More than likely, as has been their wont of late, it just means that those in power rewrite the rules to get around the roadblock, and in the process, to get around us and all those annoying little things that gets in their way (like having to declare ware, for instance). Thanks for that.

    Comment by Brad — 9/21/2010 @ 10:03 pm

  8. I would be willing to hear proposals to make certain kinds of legislation require a supermajority to pass, but I think Brad is right; when a minority can effectively block a bill from even being discussed (and does so for a wide variety of legislation), that seems contrary to the idea of Congress.

    Comment by Talarohk — 9/21/2010 @ 10:22 pm

  9. “Stop a bill from even being discussed?” Oh, come off it. DADT has been discussed to death in every corner inside and outside of the political universe. The filibuster exists to prevent passage, plain and simple.

    Again: I await your condemnation of the filibuster on an occasion where it kills a bill you disapprove of. I have never, ever heard anyone of any political perspective express said sentiment in said situation.

    Brad’s scenario is that the filibuster could kill meaningful reform. Given that almost the entire reason that meaningful reform is needed is that the existing system gives the majority what they want (high spending and no taxes), I think this criticism is pretty farfetched. If anything, what we need is a supermajority for ALL spending bills and tax cuts. The very last thing we should want is to make it easier for the electorate to act on its worst sentiments.

    I do care about ending DADT. I don’t care about the filibuster.

    Comment by Rojas — 9/21/2010 @ 11:23 pm

  10. You don’t think that avoiding going on record with a vote on the issue was part of the reason behind the filibuster? I suppose that might be plausible; nobody seems to have been shy about expressing opinions on the issue.

    I’ll accept that challenge on consistency with the filibuster. I’ll keep my eyes open.

    As to supermajorities and budgets, it could be worse. Here in California, we require a supermajority to impose or raise taxes, but a simple majority to increase spending. If that isn’t a recipe for budget problems, I don’t know what would be.

    Comment by Talarohk — 9/22/2010 @ 12:12 am

  11. Bradís scenario is that the filibuster could kill meaningful reform. Given that almost the entire reason that meaningful reform is needed is that the existing system gives the majority what they want (high spending and no taxes), I think this criticism is pretty farfetched. If anything, what we need is a supermajority for ALL spending bills and tax cuts. The very last thing we should want is to make it easier for the electorate to act on its worst sentiments.

    Hey, I think voters shouldn’t elect crazy amateur demagogues to Congress. Can we add an extra-constitutional entrance exam and IQ test too, while we’re in the business of “curbing voters’ worst sentiments”?

    Also, it would help if we just counted anybody with “Bush 2004” bumper stickers on their cars as half a vote.

    Comment by Brad — 9/22/2010 @ 7:32 am

  12. Also, keep in mind we’re not talking about high spending and taxes here. We’re talking about barring gays from serving in the military and, say, the existence of liberal judicial nominees.

    In any case, I didn’t write the post as a condemnation of the filibuster. I DO happen to be against the filibuster, but that wasn’t my point here. My point here was a condemnation of the filibuster FOR THIS.

    Comment by Brad — 9/22/2010 @ 7:36 am

  13. Rojas, my taking exception to the filibuster was very specific to DADT. I’m not a fan of the filibuster in general, but I wasn’t thinking about it procedurally in this post so much as thining about the continuation of a disgusting and discriminitory policy that was made possible by McCain’s filibuster.

    And did you see the clips of him talking to reporters right after? Belligerent and arrogant and stubborn and wrong.

    Comment by Liz — 9/22/2010 @ 1:47 pm

  14. Turns out we have him to thank for the lack of repeal.

    Anyway, Republicans are really behind the bar on this one. You can’t claim not to be bigoted, yet oppose DADT repeal, gay marriage, AND anti-gay discrimination laws, and claim a different excuse each time. Nobody believes this is anything but a fundamental problem with/hatred of gays. Unfortunately, a good number of Americans still has that problem/hatred.

    Comment by sanzoneja — 9/24/2010 @ 1:51 pm

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