Thursday, December 9, 2010

DADT 2 -- And How Information Flows Have Really Changed Things

OK, after reading Greg Sargent's reporting, and tweets from Joe Lieberman saying that he and Susan Collins have a stand-alone bill and that Harry Reid has committed to bring it to the floor during this session (although, so far, we don't have confirmation about when that will happen compared to when the Senate will adjourn), I think I have a better guess about Reid's thinking -- and, more appropriately for this blog perhaps, a bit of speculation about what this process has told us about Congress in the present information age.

First, what's happening.

Again, this is guesswork based on the above information, but it seems that what's happening isn't that Reid is giving up on DADT repeal; he's giving up on the strategy of bundling it with the Defense Authorization bill.  At this point, the problem is that he can't realistically take up the larger bill without allowing any amendments at all...that's just not done.  And once it's opened at all to amendments, then he's convinced that determined Republican supporters of DADT could drag it out, even if cloture passes every time its needed. 

On the other hand, a stand-alone repeal bill could be brought up and, with 60 determined votes, avoid any amendments at all, thus radically reducing the necessary floor time.  (Actual floor time required would consist, if I have this right, on post-cloture time on a motion to proceed and then post-cloture time on a motion to bring the bill to a final vote; both motions would need time to ripen, but that doesn't tie up the Senate floor).

Now, whether the new plan will work depends on whether Harry Reid and the Democrats (and House Democrats) are willing to stick around and do it.  That, we don't yet know.  It may depend, too, on how quickly the tax bill and any other business can be finished.  And perhaps Republicans will be able to throw up enough roadblocks to run out the clock, after all.

Meanwhile, the original advantages of bundling repeal with the Defense Authorization bill turned out to have been a flop, or at least half a flop.  The idea behind it was always that marginal Senators would be afraid to vote "against the troops" and would therefore vote for the larger bill even if they didn't want to vote for DADT repeal -- and that other Senators who may have wanted DADT repeal but didn't want to vote for it would be spared a separate vote.  Perhaps that's worked with some marginal Democrats (all Dems but Manchin voted yes today), but it certainly didn't work with Republicans.


And here's where I think this process is telling us something. Under current conditions, it sure seems to me that this particular kind of procedural trick is useless.  No one can "sneak" a vote through.  In particular, that's the case for partisan information flows.  If GOP-aligned media sources said that Dick Lugar, or Scott Brown, or other Republican Senators were betraying their party by voting in favor of the Defense Authorization bill, then Republican activists in their states would hear about it and know about it, and it might well spark a primary challenge.  Once upon a time, Members of Congress could cast these sorts of confusing votes and assume that the only person they had to worry about was the Washington correspondent(s) of their local paper(s).  Now, those Washington correspondents are gone, but there's a whole internet (not to mention lots of paid lobbyists, think tankers, and others) watching everything, and transmitting the information relatively efficiently to party activists.

(For that matter, once upon a time Congress used "teller" votes rather than recorded votes in most cases, and unless the reporter happened to be in the untelevised chamber at the time there was no way of knowing how anyone voted).

Now, that doesn't mean that logrolling is no longer viable; there are still plenty of issues that no one is going to care about unless partisans get pumped up about them.  But it does mean that for high-profile issues like DADT, it probably matters a whole lot less how they're packaged.  We can't be sure; it's possible that bundling the two together did win the votes of some marginal Democrats -- who now, having voted for it, will presumably stay for it in stand-alone form.  But odds are that the whole clever strategy was a full waste of time.

12 comments:

  1. And the hard truth is that republicans actually listen to and fear their base whereas democrats do not.

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  2. I mean, is it normal for political junkies to get so extremely emotional about every single vote? What's with this emotional rollercoaster with respect to 1) freezing fed pay 2) tax cut deal 3) DADT 4) DREAM act and that's just this week. And it's still only Thursday. And it's been going on like this for almost two years.

    Every single day it's another huge emotional garment-rending drama. I mean, I'm in favor of repealing DADT and passing DREAM Act too, but I doubt these overdramatic, wrenching histrionics and theatrics are doing much good. It's exhausting to watch. No wonder no one takes liberals seriously. Undignified and embarrassing.

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  3. Don't blame the strategy. No strategy can work anymore with a GOP that has broken the system.

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  4. James,
    I think for your answer to this, turn to the comments by the Anons.

    In a time of polarization, both sets of partisans are very concerned that they win and the other guys lose, simply because the outcomes are so starkly different. Come January, there is absolutely no chance of DADT happening, nor DREAM. So, libs are concerned because anything left on their agenda has 4 weeks to pass.

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  5. On why Reid can't afford to drag this out to January:

    1) It risks all the judicial and other nominees that you noted yesterday.

    2) Cutting the holiday break would hurt Democrats and their fundraising more than it would hurt Republicans. Republicans are less vulnerable in the next cycle; Democrats need something to show their supporters at holiday parties now.

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  6. Or is it that DADT repeal turns out to be significantly more popular today than it was even a year ago. The painstaking Obama approach with the survey shows that DADT repeal has significant military support-and it should be clear Obama isn't going to rush the bureaucracy so that voting for repeal doesn't need to be hidden. So stripping it away from the defense authorization actually simplifies the task of beating back the McCain obstruction and stalling tactics.

    It comes down to a timing question. Obama and co had hoped that their tax agreement would pass quickly, thus fulfilling the Republican priority, while leaving precious time to deal with the rest of the wish list. Now that that isn't happening, simplification is necessary.

    It could either be that Reid thinks he can get both DADT repeal and Defense Authorization passed, or that he is going to let Lieberman and Collins invest their energy in DADT repeal (perhaps also making it independent from the Republican priority ultimatum), allowing Reid to concentrate on the rest of what must pass before the Democratic majority is reduced in size, and perhaps leaving the Defense Authorization bill for January.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Acrossthestreet,

    It's been a long time since I've been around day-to-day fundraising, but...really? I'd be surprised if there's a lot of district-based fundraising in the last week of December. As for the nominations, I don't see a whole lot of evidence that there's a trade-off there, because I don't see much movement on the nominations anyway.

    James,

    Partisans and issue advocates get emotional, not political junkies! But, sure, of course people are emotional about what's happening now. I mean, DADT repeal (or, before that, repeal of the ban) has been Dem policy for 20 years, it's close to getting done but (so far) not happening, and it could well go another decade if it doesn't happen in the 111th. A lot of people worked awful hard to elect Obama & the 111th Congress, and of course they care a lot about whether things get passed or not. (And, of course, a lot of people worked hard on the other side, and they care a lot, too).

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  8. Support the troops, pass a Defense Budget. Stay through Christmas if necessary. Strip both DADT and the abortion funding from the budget bill. Allow amendments, to address earmarks and other complaints. Have the debate on the Basic Budget, and get something PASSED. Commanders are in Continuing Resolution. They are having to make tough choices (something, unfortunately, that they're not used to doing). Tough choices about not just the usual tight travel budget in the last quarter of Fiscal Year. Instead of the usual placing some CR funds on every contract and every Reserve manpower request and every on the bet that the 80% CR funds is temporary, first-quarter only; their seriously have to consider that the whole Fiscal Year will be like this, no budget will be passed, so better Fully Fund for the FY the top 1-5 priorities, and nothing (at least not this first quarter) to some items. Finally, they're having to act like the leaders they get paid to be. BUT, their emotional dislike of tough decisions needs an outlet. Since they can't get mad a Congress -- must MUST be polite to the boss that feeds you -- instead, it rolls downhill. Expect a spike in EEO harassment complaints from the Civilian workforce, would get to be the targets of the bosses' bad moods. Expect consternation from the CGOs, who are not sure how to handle a testy boss; and who don't know enough about the macro-picture to understand the real source of their Squadron CCs bad mood.

    Support the troops, pass a Defense Budget.

    =========================================

    I would like to see DADT pass. But, okay to strip it from Defense Budget. Would like to hear more debate/discussion on HOW it will be implemented; e.g., partner benefits versus already over-taxed personnel budgets, anti-discrimination policy (and if/how sexual orientation does or does not fit into that). Personally, I'd like ALL the categories to go away: race, sex[gender], et al. The gays don't want a new category. It would be great if the first BLACK President signed a law removing the racial category from anti-harassment laws, keeping the generic topic of Harassment that interferes with the work environment. Actually discuss/debate when does name-calling rise to interfering with the work climate, when does a slip of the tongue -- a phrase that someone hears as a sexual reference -- that is laughed off become intentional (frequency, phrasing, group vs individual setting, formal meeting vs casual around the coffee machine) innuendo; meant to intimidate and create a workplace hierarchy, versus unintentional and all should have social skills to brush off and still be able to focus on work/tasks and be productive.

    A DADT debate on the social merits would be very interesting. We had one for women in the military. We incorporated blacks in the military, during the Civil War and WWI; without waiting for the end of hostilities. The claim that "it's wartime" -- when none is declared by Congress nor is there even a way to define when "terrorism" (an emotion) will be defeated -- is a gambit by opponents, not an argument that stands up to military history.

    Phew, that's my 5 cents worth.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sort the troops, pass a Defense Budget. Stay through Christmas if necessary. Strip both DADT and the abortion funding from the budget bill. Allow amendments, to address earmarks and other complaints. Have the debate on the Basic Budget, and get something PASSED. Commanders are in Continuing Resolution. They are having to make tough choices (something, unfortunately, that they're not used to doing). Tough choices about not just the usual tight travel budget in the last quarter of Fiscal Year. Instead of the usual placing some CR funds on every contract and every Reserve manpower request and every on the bet that the 80% CR funds is temporary, first-quarter only; their seriously have to consider that the whole Fiscal Year will be like this, no budget will be passed, so better Fully Fund for the FY the top 1-5 priorities, and nothing (at least not this first quarter) to some items. Finally, they're having to act like the leaders they get paid to be. BUT, their emotional dislike of tough decisions needs an outlet. Since they can't get mad a Congress -- must MUST be polite to the boss that feeds you -- instead, it rolls downhill. Expect a spike in EEO harassment complaints from the Civilian workforce, would get to be the targets of the bosses' bad moods. Expect consternation from the CGOs, who are not sure how to handle a testy boss; and who don't know enough about the macro-picture to understand the real source of their Squadron CCs bad mood.

    Support the troops, pass a Defense Budget.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would like to see DADT pass. But, okay to strip it from Defense Budget. Would like to hear more debate/discussion on HOW it will be implemented; e.g., partner benefits versus already over-taxed personnel budgets, anti-discrimination policy (and if/how sexual orientation does or does not fit into that). Personally, I'd like ALL the categories to go away: race, sex[gender], et al. The gays don't want a new category. It would be great if the first BLACK President signed a law removing the racial category from anti-harassment laws, keeping the generic topic of Harassment that interferes with the work environment. Actually discuss/debate when does name-calling rise to interfering with the work climate, when does a slip of the tongue -- a phrase that someone hears as a sexual reference -- that is laughed off become intentional (frequency, phrasing, group vs individual setting, formal meeting vs casual around the coffee machine) innuendo; meant to intimidate and create a workplace hierarchy, versus unintentional and all should have social skills to brush off and still be able to focus on work/tasks and be productive.

    A DADT debate on the social merits would be very interesting. We had one for women in the military. We incorporated blacks in the military, during the Civil War and WWI; without waiting for the end of hostilities. The claim that "it's wartime" -- when none is declared by Congress nor is there even a way to define when "terrorism" (an emotion) will be defeated -- is a gambit by opponents, not an argument that stands up to military history.

    Support the troops: honor the survey results and pass DADT. Have the debate on implementation, so both the greater public and the public that are troops have an opportunity to better understand and weigh in, through their individual Representatives and Senators, on some implementation impacts. E.g., to benefits costs, to work environment policy, etc.

    The DADT implementation will not go smoothly; all should stop that rose-colored glasses saying. Women's integration had its rocky moments; but eventually, even Sheila Widnall could not play the woman card. Similarly, there will be public cases of UCMJ trials; both for those who harass gays, and certainly some gay person will be the poster child for unacceptable obnoxious in-your-face out behavior (braggaocia interfering with the work environment, conduct unbecoming an officer, somehow fitting into 'you must overtly accept me and my lifestyle' even though I don't have to accept smoking in my presence, nor have to accept loud boasting about an extra-marital affair when at a work function ['What goes TDY, stays TDY' is, imho, a false premise), etc.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Part I:


    I would like to see DADT pass. But, okay to strip it from Defense Budget. Would like to hear more debate/discussion on HOW it will be implemented; e.g., partner benefits versus already over-taxed personnel budgets, anti-discrimination policy (and if/how sexual orientation does or does not fit into that). Personally, I'd like ALL the categories to go away: race, sex[gender], et al. The gays don't want a new category. It would be great if the first BLACK President signed a law removing the racial category from anti-harassment laws, keeping the generic topic of Harassment that interferes with the work environment. Actually discuss/debate when does name-calling rise to interfering with the work climate, when does a slip of the tongue -- a phrase that someone hears as a sexual reference -- that is laughed off become intentional (frequency, phrasing, group vs individual setting, formal meeting vs casual around the coffee machine) innuendo; meant to intimidate and create a workplace hierarchy, versus unintentional and all should have social skills to brush off and still be able to focus on work/tasks and be productive.

    A DADT debate on the social merits would be very interesting. We had one for women in the military. We incorporated blacks in the military, during the Civil War and WWI; without waiting for the end of hostilities. The claim that "it's wartime" -- when none is declared by Congress nor is there even a way to define when "terrorism" (an emotion) will be defeated -- is a gambit by opponents, not an argument that stands up to military history.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Support the troops: honor the survey results and pass DADT. Have the debate on implementation, so both the greater public and the public that are troops have an opportunity to better understand and weigh in, through their individual Representatives and Senators, on some implementation impacts. E.g., to benefits costs, to work environment policy, etc.

    The DADT implementation will not go smoothly; all should stop that rose-colored glasses saying. Women's integration had its rocky moments; but eventually, even Sheila Widnall could not play the woman card. Similarly, there will be public cases of UCMJ trials; both for those who harass gays, and certainly some gay person will be the poster child for unacceptable obnoxious in-your-face out behavior (braggaocia interfering with the work environment, conduct unbecoming an officer, somehow fitting into 'you must overtly accept me and my lifestyle' even though I don't have to accept smoking in my presence, nor have to accept loud boasting about an extra-marital affair when at a work function ['What goes TDY, stays TDY' is, imho, a false premise), etc.

    End Part II.

    ReplyDelete

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