Collins, Voinovich Follow Their Leader, Hide Behind Senate Procedure on DADT Repeal

Following the orders of their Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Susan Collins (R-ME) and George Voinovich (R-OH) announced they will join the GOP filibuster led by John McCain (R-AZ) of the Defense Authorization bill, making today’s initial steps to repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell very precarious.

Despite having voted for repeal of DADT in committee, and giving an impassioned floor speech this morning in favor of repeal, Susan Collins announced that the Senate rules and procedures were more important than the "unfair and morally reprehensible" DADT policy.

"I find myself on the horns of a dilemma," said Collins. "I was the sole Republican in the committee that voted [to repeal DADT]. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s only fair."

But, she said, refusing to allow unlimited amendments is an equal affront to decency. "That too is not fair," said Collins of Reid’s decision. "I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate.

Of course, amendments are completely impossible without a floor debate, which Collins’ filibuster support may very well prevent:  . . .

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said that he was "not sure how many more assurances that we can provide both privately and publicly to [Collins], but we need to get to the bill first of all."

Collins retreat into an objection to procedure obscures the underlying politics of the unified Republican opposition to repealing DADT. Collins has been under tremendous pressure from her colleagues not to break ranks, while facing pressure from home to vote her conscience. Collins was the lone Republican to support repealing the policy in the Armed Services Committee. Collins, who is choosing her party over her principled opposition to DADT, criticized Democrats for putting politics ahead of policy. "Now is not the time to play politics simply because an election is looming in a few weeks," she said.

Subsequent to Collins, retiring GOP Senator George Voinovich also retreated behind Senate procedure and the promised-for-December DoD report from Republican Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

I’m disappointed that Majority Leader Reid and Senate Democrats have chosen to turn the Defense authorization bill – crucial legislation for our troops in a time of war – into a messaging bill. Just as I said with my decision to support the small business bill, this is not a time for messaging from either side of the aisle. This is a time for action. If the Democrats are serious about passing this bill in a timely fashion, they wouldn’t be attaching amendments that are not relevant to the common defense, in addition to making it impossible for Republicans to offer their own amendments to address concerns they have with the bill as voted out of the Armed Services Committee.

‘Repeal’ of DADT, which today’s Defense Authorization bill vote would neither mandate nor be the last word on, may very well have ended this year (and likely for this presidential term) with Collins’ and Voinovich’s retreat behind procedure.

It’s good to know they hold Senate arcana as highly as the lives of our troops serving in secret in the war theatre.

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