As part of Think Progress’ “Better Know An Anti-LGBT Senate Candidate” series, Josh Israel examines Scott Brown’s record. I’m happy to see members of the Republican Party — especially alleged moderates and libertarians — taken to task on such vital issues, but one piece of Israel’s analysis doesn’t tell the whole story.
Buried in the middle of a long list of nine bad votes or statements, Israel concedes that Brown supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (cue Joe Biden). But careful readers who’ve made it this far are about to be misled.
Israel correctly notes that earlier in 2010, Brown opposed DADT repeal but by December had changed his mind. So far so good.
But, he announced he would not support even an up-or-down vote on the measure in the Senate until after Congress agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
That’s not quite what happened. Brown, along with a united Republican caucus in the Senate during the “lame duck” session in December 2010, informed Senate Majority Leader Reid that they would filibuster “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.” Not only were the Bush tax cuts (and not just “for the wealthy”) set to expire, the federal government was going to run out of money on December 21. From the GOP letter:
With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.
Coming off the Tea Party victories in the November elections, the Republicans made the credible case that the Pelosi-Reid Congress had lost its mandate, especially to pass the omnibus spending bill Reid wanted. While Reid could — and did — call a lame duck session to try to enact progressive legislation, he had lost substantial leverage.
Agree or disagree with the Republicans’ positions on tax rates or the budget, they saw an opportunity to hold Reid’s feet to the fire. And it worked. Kind of.*
You see, Scott Brown actually broke the GOP pledge to filibuster everything — and he broke that pledge to support the DADT repeal. That’s right — he did precisely the opposite of what Israel is arguing.
Even after he got his way on tax cuts, Brown joined a filibuster of the first attempt at repeal before ultimately backing the final version.
Israel should follow his own links. As Israel’s link to Crooks & Liars shows, the “first attempt” to repeal DADT came on December 9, as part of a larger defense bill. Despite what Israel says, Brown had not yet had “his way on tax cuts.” A deal may have already been reached outside of Congress, but Harry Reid had not set a vote on the tax cut extension until December 15. Reid had simply decided to schedule a vote he knew he was going to lose (which both sides do all the time, to arm groups like Think Progress with recorded votes).
If you think I’m just nitpicking here, a deal on the tax cut extension still left the OTHER half of the filibuster threat on the table: The Republicans also wanted to see a continuing resolution to fund the government. The CR finally passed on December 21.
But here’s the thing. Something happened in between December 15 and December 21, a time when the GOP filibuster threat still technically existed. While it appeared a deal on a CR had been struck, nothing was official, and it wasn’t immediately clear if the Republicans would stick to the filibuster pledge until a vote actually occurred.
On December 18, the Senate invoked cloture on the standalone DADT repeal bill. And Scott Brown and four other Republicans voted with the Democrats (two more conservative Senators, John Ensign and Richard Burr, upheld the filibuster pledge but voted to repeal DADT on the final vote).
That’s hardly a case of “obstruction” by Brown. Reid and the Republicans were engaged in a game of chicken on tax cuts and the CR, and DADT repeal got caught up in it (which is actually what Harry Reid wanted to happen). But at the end of the day, Scott Brown did the right thing.
*While the GOP got both its tax cut extension and a short-term CR. But Harry Reid also managed to pass many significant pieces of legislation, including DADT repeal. As Lindsey Graham put it, “When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch.”