Appropriations, Wyden's Prostate Cancer, DREAM Act And DADT Repeal

By now you've probably heard that Harry Reid has agreed to a one-month continuing resolution on the budget appropriations bill. When I heard it, I went full-tilt ballistic. And then I heard the news about Senator Ron Wyden's need to have prostate cancer surgery and everything fell into place. Here's why I think Reid agreed the extension by continuing resolution:

  1. DeMint demanded a full reading of the appropriations bill on the floor of the Senate. That reading would involve having 1,924 pages of text read out loud on the Senate floor. As you may recall, that tactic was used last December when the vote on the health care bill was looming, and Democrats called the bluff. I suspect they would have this time too, except for what happened after DeMint's demand.
  2. Reid planned to have the Senate in session through January 4th if necessary in order to bring up the DREAM Act and DADT standalone repeal after disposing of the tax cuts, appropriations bill, and START.
  3. Senator Scott Brown announced support for standalone DADT repeal bill today, putting the total number in support at 60 with Wyden and Murkowski's support. There are rumors of more Republicans signing on after Pat Toomey spoke in favor of it.
  4. Wyden announced he had delayed prostate cancer surgery as long as he could without endangering his health, and would not be available on Friday for votes because of tests, nor would he be available on Monday because that was when surgery was scheduled. Past Monday was up in the air.
  5. Reid made a value judgment, decided to get the appropriations question out of the way and schedule cloture votes for DADT repeal and the DREAM Act on Saturday when Wyden was still available to vote.
  6. That would leave the START treaty on the table, which Republicans have claimed requires 6-7 days of debate before a vote. With everything else out of the way, it'll be pretty obvious who is keeping the Senate from going home for the holidays.

Because a majority is 60% in the United States Senate and because these DREAM and DADT repeal votes are so close, Reid decided he couldn't lose Wyden's vote on DREAM and DADT repeal. I think in the long run he's probably right, since Republicans are about as trustworthy as foxes in henhouses.

So where from here? I see a couple of directions -- my opinion only. If the Senate actually tries for a filibuster rule change on the first day of the new Congress (January 5th) that makes filibustering harder than just waving a pinky and nodding at the minority leader, then the Senate will have new life. If they go there. And actually get it done. I do think that for the first time there's some real will among Senate Democrats to modify these ridiculous filibuster rules. Many of the newest Democratic Senators are determined to attach a political and public cost to what is now nothing more than a wink and a nod.

The new Republican House will have to either produce an appropriations bill by mid-January or so or shut down the government. I think it's reasonable to expect them to shut down government. Whether they're held accountable for the fallout from that action will be up to the people and the press. Still, it's more likely they'll produce an appropriations bill than a new version of the DREAM Act and DADT standalone repeal, and I think that's the choice Harry Reid made. START is also on shaky ground at this point.

If there is a victory at hand at all it will be pyrrhic, coming at the cost of defunding the Affordable Care Act in whatever final form the appropriations bill takes. In 2011, that funding was to provide ongoing funding to states' high-risk pools, a second tier of funding for Bernie Sanders' community health centers, and appropriations for transitions to electronic health records, among others.

In the end, Wyden's pending surgery and the dwindling time frame drove Reid's decision. The only question is whether these two standalone bills will succeed. DADT repeal is looking hopeful. DREAM Act is on shaky ground. We need to keep the pressure on the Senate to vote for it.

It's an E-Ticket ride, isn't it?

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