This morning, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — the sponsor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Senate — said he has been “talking” to his friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) but was “not making progress in my effort” to sway him to vote for cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — the underlining bill that includes the repeal amendment. Lieberman reiterated that he believes he has 60 votes for cloture on the bill and urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring up the measure under an open amendment process:
LIEBERMAN: I don’t know if I can say I’ve been lobbying my friend John McCain, I’ve been talking to him. I can say that I’m not making progress in my efforts with Senator McCain. But I believe we have more than 60 Senators, including a good solid handful of Republicans who are prepared to vote to take up the Armed Services bill, which already has within it the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
And the real challenge here is the clock. Will we take the time to have the debate, not just on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but on the underlining Defense Authorization bill. And I can tell you that some of the Republicans who want to be for this, also want to make sure that Senator Reid offers them a fair amendment process.
Still it remains unclear if moderate Republicans — who had said they would wait for the results of the study before deciding how to vote on the measure — are interested in pursuing the measure during the lame duck session, with some GOP leaders hinting that they will try to run-out the clock or pressure Democrats to drop the measure in return for Republican cooperation on the New START treaty:
- SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): “It’s possible, in my view, to do some serious things in the lame duck…It’s not possible to do START, taxes, unemployment insurance, the Dream Act, the firefighters thing and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
- SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN): “To me the question is: Does the majority want to take up START, if they do that means really not taking up all of these other issues they continue to talk about…Let’s deal with the issue of extending tax policy, let’s deal with the continuing resolution (to fund the government) and let’s spend the couple of weeks that it might take on the floor with START.”
- SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “I think the view — the unanimous view of Senate Republicans is let’s take care of the tax issue; let’s take care of how we’re going to fund the government for the next 10 months; and then if there’s time left for other matters, it will be up to the majority leader, Senator Reid, to decide whether we turn to other things before we adjourn for the year.”
The other alternative for Republicans, moreover, would be to strip so-called “controversial” provisions out of the NDAA and pass a slimmer version of the measure.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings into the Pentagon’s report about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell tomorrow and Friday and advocates expect Reid to clarify how he will proceed with the matter before the end of the week.
Brian Beutler also points out that 42 Republicans have sent a letter to Reid saying they won’t vote on other issues until the tax issue is resolved:
According to a letter delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning, Republicans will block all debate on all legislation until the tax cut impasse is bridged and the federal government has been fully funded — even if it means days tick by and the Senate misses its opportunity to pass DADT, an extension of unemployment insurance and other Dem items.
“[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers,” the letter reads. “With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
,Collins spokesperson Kevin Kelley tells Greg Sargent that she might still vote for cloture on the NDAA: “However, she believes there is time to consider other issues as well, and she has made it clear that if the Majority Leader brings the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, for example, and allows sufficient debate and amendments, she would vote to proceed to the bill.