While a roiling debate plays out on the national stage over whether or not to extend all of the Bush tax cuts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Monday that he plans to bring up a defense spending-related bill, one that re-ignites, however briefly, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" argument, this according to a senior Democratic leadership aide.
Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, voted earlier this year to support a full repeal of the 1993 law that outlaws gay Americans from serving openly in the military. The committee, in the Defense Authorization bill, approved the repeal once the military completes a survey of men and women in the armed forces, and as long as the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all give express certification that there will be no adverse affect on the troops and military readiness by the reversal of policy.
All but one committee Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, back in May voted against the repeal, and many say now that they intend to filibuster the legislation when it is moved to the floor later this week, not just because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but also because of language in the bill that they say permits abortions at military facilities. The bill allows for the procedure to be performed if privately-funded by the servicemember.
Brooke Buchanan, a spokesman for Sen. John McCain, top Republican on the panel, said Monday that the Arizona senator intends to support a filibuster of the bill and "strongly believes in the importance of completing the comprehensive review of the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law prior to taking any legislative action to repeal the policy." Buchanan added, "As all four Service Chiefs have stated, we should not short circuit the ongoing Pentagon review and thereby deny our men and women in uniform a chance to have their voices heard on an important issue that affects them and their service."
Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia was the lone Democrat to oppose the measure in committee.
It is unclear if any other Democrats would follow suit in the chamber, though it is not likely to matter. It is not likly Reid could devote the floor time needed to surmount all of the procedural obstacles that come with a multi-layered GOP filibuster of the bill, though Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich, told reporters Monday night that he "thinks" he can get 60 votes.
The Senate is only expected to be in session for the next three to four weeks before members head out to campaign.