Today in the Senate, the cloture motion on the Defense Authorization Act failed to pass, with 56 senators voting for cloture and 43 senators voting against. All 40 Republican senators (Murkowski [R-AK] was absent) voted against the cloture motion, as well as Democratic senators Lincoln and Pryor, both from Arkansas, and Reid (Nevada), who voted “no” for procedural reasons once it was clear the motion would not pass. The reason for not allowing debate on this bill? Two amendments that Democrats wanted to attach: one to allow the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the Development, Relief, and Eduction for Minors (DREAM) Act (more details on that below).
Rachel Maddow painted this as Republicans saying “we would rather not fund the Pentagon than allow the military to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'”, and highlights that this bill has passed all 48 times it has come to a vote, but I think that’s misleading. This bill will pass, and the military will be funded. The question is whether that funding will include the provision for the military to repeal DADT after considering the internal report scheduled to be released in December. (Aside from that claim, I think that the Maddow segment is great)
The major debate surrounding the cloture motion seems to have been disagreement over how to deal with the amendments. Reid had previously said that he would consider only three amendments prior to the upcoming elections: the DADT repeal, the DREAM Act, and an amendment related to secret holds on presidential nominees. Though he later amended that statement to say the he would include other amendments related to the DADT repeal and then additional amendments provided there was time, but Republicans objected to this as well. Sen McConnell (R-KY) wanted the consideration of 20 amendments, none of which could relate to immigration, a move clearly targeting the DREAM Act. Neither side would budge, and thus, the filibuster.
All of which just makes me upset with pretty much everyone in the Senate, and the process as a whole. The only positive thing worth noting about today’s action on the DADT repeal was this speech given by Sen. Franken (D-MN) (h/t Talking Points Memo):
(The portion I want to highlight ends at about 10:00)
But DADT repeal aside, the failure to pass the DREAM Act is a disappointment that should not be overlooked. The DREAM Act (first introduced by Sen. Hatch [R-UT] in 2003) provides a path for children of illegal immigrants to obtain a green card through one of two means: (1) serving two years in the Army or (2) attending two years of college. This option would only be available to children who had been brought to America before they turned 16, and had lived in America for 5 years and graduated from an American high school or the equivalent.
While I think that the college provision is admirable and should be passed, that’s not what I’d like to focus on here. More importantly, I think that the continued failure to pass the DREAM Act is a travesty, and reflects a continued undervaluation of the men and women in our armed forces.
I can think of no more appropriate way to earn the right to embark on the path towards citizenship than by risking one’s life for the United States. And really, that’s all the DREAM Act provides. Serving two years gets you a green card, and only if you meet a number of other requirements. But apparently, risking one’s life isn’t good enough. We can’t allow these people, whose only crime was being brought into the U.S. as children by their parents, into America even when they’re willing to give their lives to defend it.
We are in the midst of the longest war in U.S. history, and instead of providing incentives to encourage enlistment (one of the reasons that the Department of Defense would like the DREAM Act to be passed [PDF, p. 8]), we are discouraging enlistment in some groups and kicking people out because of their sexual preferences. While the cost of the war continues to climb, Republicans are fighting to extend tax cuts for the income brackets that are under-represented in the Army’s recruiting class. We are moving towards a national consciousness in which war is no longer a big deal. To me, that is very troubling.