The Paw Print
On Tuesday, September 21, 2010 all Senate Republicans and two Senate Democrats filibustered the FY 2011 Defense Authorization Bill. The bill was blocked from passage on a 56-43 vote. Democrats would have needed 60 votes to overcome any Republican objections. Democratic senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor joined every single member of the Republican minority in opposition. Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted against the bill during procedural votes.
The bill began with simple operational expenses for the United State Military and benefits to improve service members’ quality of life. These provisions included a 1.4 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members in uniform, consistent with President Obama’s request, TRICARE coverage for all eligible dependents up to the age of 26, fully funded the $9.8 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, authorized $10.2 billion for Missile Defense Programs, as well as authorized billions for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In past Congresses, the Defense Authorization Bill has usually been lent a heavy bi-partisan support and easy passage. It has been troubling to many government officials, advisors, politicians, and active citizens, that the present congress acted in such a way that the passage of our nation’s Defense Authorization Bill was not possible.
Along with these provisions came controversial amendments that Republicans accused Democrats of using for political gains in a tough midterm election year. These amendments included the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a military policy requiring members of the LGBT community to not acknowledge in the armed forces whether or not they are from this community. If they are determined to be LGBT, they can be discharged from active duty. Also included was the Dream Act. The Dream Act is a bill that has been long standing and controversial in the United States. It would give the children of illegal immigrants, who were not born in the U.S. and therefore illegal themselves, a path to citizenship if they began attending U.S. schools before they were 15 years of age, and attend two years of college, or join a branch of the armed forces. Lastly, there was also an amendment lifting the ban of abortions in military hospitals. These amendments are largely credited for the Senate’s inability to pass the Defense Authorization Bill.
This was viewed as the best time to pass these provisions by many activists for the LGBT, Latino, and immigrant communities. On the floor, Senator Al Franken was just about moved to tears giving a speech following the final vote. It is widely held that Republicans will make significant gains in November, not out of ordinary for the party who holds the Executive Branch of our government. Majority Leader Harry Reid has offered to bring up the legislation some time later this year. It is likely this will not occur until after the Mid-Term elections. “This is a cynical ploy to try to galvanize their base,” said Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee. “This ain’t over,” said Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.