The Senate will act on two important pieces of President Obama’s progressive legislative agenda today: the DREAM Act and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers. By the end of the day, the path to final passage is expected to be set for DADT repeal, while DREAM is expected to languish for another Congress to pass.
Starting at around 10:30 this morning, the Senate will take up a cloture vote on DREAM. Cloture — voted in by a 60-senator super majority — is required to cut off debate and move a bill to final passage in the Senate. DREAM, which would provide legal status for illegal immigrants who serve in the military or earn college degrees, is not expected to hit that mark, effectively scrapping the bill for the time being.
That will set the stage for a cloture vote on a standalone DADT repeal bill, which proponents say is destined for passage. That will be the first step toward ending the nearly two-decade practice of allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military, but not if anyone who works with them knows they’re gay. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who has been the driving force behind lining up the votes for DADT repeal, says he has the 60 he needs and most observers expect there to be little drama today.
Lieberman and his allies in the Democratic caucus are expected to get help repealing DADT from at least four Republicans — Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Olympia Snowe (ME). Most of the rest of the GOP caucus is expected to vote against it, though Lieberman said yesterday that the bill may pick up support from the GOP as it heads toward final passage.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) has not said whether he’ll support the standalone bill — and he voted against repeal the last time it came up, as part of a defense spending bill last week. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), who voted for cloture on the spending bill, has also not said how he’ll vote. Proponents of repeal say they don’t need either vote to win today.
Supposing cloture is reached (which, again, is all but a foregone conclusion according to supporters of repeal), a final vote on the bill to end DADT could come as early as today. More likely than not, however, 30 hours of final debate on the measure will be kicked off by the cloture vote. That puts a final repeal vote sometime late Sunday.
The House already passed its version of the standalone DADT repeal (as well as DREAM, for what it’s worth) which means that if the Senate passes the repeal this weekend it will go straight to the president’s desk for likely signature.