This afternoon, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the defense authorization bill, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had moments before tweeted that he was preparing to speak in opposition to debating the bill, jumped the gun and unintentionally objected to the reading of the motion. Told by the presiding president — Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of all people — that his objection was “not in order” McCain stood down, only to re-emerge minutes later.
“This is a transparent attempt to win an election,” McCain — who himself knows a thing or two about what it takes to win tough elections — began. He unleashed a fury of complaints, charging that in the last two years, Democrats had politicized the proceedings of the Senate Armed Services Committee, attached extraneous legislation to the defense measure, and eroded the committee’s history of bipartisanship. McCain criticized Democrats for using the defense bill as a vehicle to pass hate crimes legislation and complained that this year’s DREAM Act amendment was similarly out of place.
McCain said that he suspected that Democrats were trying to move to the defense measure to please political constituents ahead of the November elections and fussed that Republicans would not have enough time to debate all their amendments. These concerns sounded bizarre, however, since moments before McCain spoke, Reid said that he would be “willing to work with Senate Republicans on a process that would permit the Senate consider [Republican amendments] and complete this bill as soon as possible.” And, McCain himself had refused to begin the debate earlier. On August 5th, he objected to a unanimous consent request from Armed Services Committee Chairman Cark Levin’s (D-MI) to begin debating the defense measure as soon as the Senate came back from recess (this week, rather than next week). Watch a compilation of these exchanges and Armed Services Committee Chairman Cark Levin’s (D-MI) response to McCain:
Next, McCain moved to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell amendment and appeared to soften his strong support for the policy. McCain still insisted that Congress shouldn’t act before the Pentagon completed its review of the policy and argued that Democrats are ignoring the views of the troops, but said that he was not necessarily opposed to repeal:
MCCAIN: I want to make one thing very clear. I do not oppose or support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at this time. I do oppose taking legislative action prior to the completion of a real and thorough review of the law.
Watch McCain on DADT:
Prior to his primary campaign, McCain — who had in years passed argued that he would consider ending the ban on open gay and lesbian service if military leaders like Colin Powell asked him to review the policy — insisted that the policy was working and did not need to be changed. “The policy is one that has worked by the opinion of their commanders,” McCain told the Arizona Daily Star in April. “So by any objective view, our military is the most professional, best equipped, best trained, most highest quality that it’s ever been. That means that its policies are working.”
“So I think, again, when I talk to men and women in the military, they say it’s not broke, it’s not broken, so we don’t need to fix it,” McCain told Greta Van Susteren in February.
Meanwhile, the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld is reporting that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is skeptical that supporters of repeal will have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster. “The question is whether the Senate leadership can negotiate an agreement with the Republicans that will allow the bill to come up and get them to feel that they can introduce amendments that they want to introduce as well,” Lieberman told The Advocate. “But until that happens, I don’t think the votes are there to break the filibuster, which would be a shame.”