DOMA Ping-Pong Politics

by Stephen H. Miller on November 12, 2011

If the Democrat-controlled Senate follows the lead of its Judiciary Committee with a party line vote to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), then the GOP-controlled House will certainly not do likewise. Quite the opposite. Too bad Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t work to move DOMA repeal out of committee when the Democrats controlled both chambers, including the Senate with a filibuster-proof supermajority.

Yes, there’s politics afoot. DOMA repeal has no chance, but a Senate vote would galvanize gay voters—and precisely because it has no chance of being enacted, it won’t unleash a broad reaction against the Democrats in socially conservative swing states, the fear of which kept Reid from moving on DOMA repeal when it actually might have made its way to Obama’s desk. Pretty neat, eh.

The wild card is a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which might at least repeal the DOMA clause prohibiting the federal government from recognizing state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. Such a move would infuriate social conservatives, but it also wouldn’t please a lot of Democratic strategists hoping the issue stays below the radar of swing state voters.

More. Yes, I realize the GOP now could and probably will filibuster repeal in the Senate, but the point still holds. The Democrats only bring it up when it has no chance of actually passing.

{ 11 comments }

Houndentenor November 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm

The Senate certainly has better things to do than pass a bill that won’t even come up for a vote in the House. As much as I’d love to have DOMA repealed, I don’t appreciate this political game. I’m not impressed with a pointless vote. Does anyone in Congress understand that this is exactly the kind of crap that has them at such low approval ratings?

Jorge November 13, 2011 at 1:29 am

Too bad Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t work to move DOMA repeal out of committee when the Democrats controlled both chambers, including the Senate with a filibuster-proof supermajority.

Hard to do everything at once when there’s so much resistance to doing even something.

Barry Deutsch November 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

There was never a point when this bill could have landed on Obama’s desk; even when Reid had “60 votes,” that includes a handful of marginal democrats like Ben Nelson, at least one of whom would have crossed the aisle to join a Republican filibuster.

Criticizing Reid for not pushing forward the bill when he could have passed it is not reasonable when it’s obvious that the bill probably never could have passed. The problem is, the Senate Republicans have broken Senate tradition to create a routine supermajority requirement for passing all bills, which makes it impossible for anything controversial to pass, even if it has a 59 vote majority.

Jorge November 14, 2011 at 8:19 am

The problem is, the Senate Republicans have broken Senate tradition to create a routine supermajority requirement for passing all bills, which makes it impossible for anything controversial to pass, even if it has a 59 vote majority.

That’s hardly a break in Senate tradition. I remember the desire to have 60 Democrats in the Senate being discussed by Bill Clinton as early as the 1998 mid-term election. I am quite sure I remember Democratic “filibusters” when the Republicans controlled the Senate briefly as well.

Lymis November 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

“I remember the desire to have 60 Democrats in the Senate being discussed by Bill Clinton as early as the 1998 mid-term election.”

The change is that now it isn’t so much a desire as a requirement.

Lymis November 14, 2011 at 9:53 am

Stephen, I would love to disagree with you, but this time you’ve pretty much nailed it, other than the idea that it might have passed at some earlier point.

Still, each step forward is a step forward, and honestly, since one of the lynchpins for most of the current anti-gay legal positions is the claim that LGBT people, despite a clear and pervasive history of systemic discrimination, don’t deserve heightened scrutiny because we are politically powerful and can get all our needs met nationwide through the normal legislative process without court intervention, this should actually work in our favor in the courts.

We demonstrably can’t get our equality rights met via the legislatures.

Houndentenor November 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

We demonstrably can’t get our equality rights met via the legislatures.

No, we can’t. Even when a super-majority of the public is on our side. Look at polling for ENDA or the repeal of DADT. How could legislation with so much popular support have so much trouble even coming up for a vote? Because everyone is scared shitless of a minority group that has control of the GOP.

Jorge November 15, 2011 at 8:27 am

The change is that now it isn’t so much a desire as a requirement.

Care to explain?

Lymis November 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Oh, it’s not a legal requirement, just a functional one.

When Clinton was talking about how nice it would be to have a supermajority, it was in the context of being able, when necessary, to force the issue on the occasional major party-line piece of legislation and essentially flex the muscles that “Hey, this huge percentage of the public voted us in, so we’re cashing that in and making this happen.”

These days, you need a supermajority to pass a bill in favor of things like gravity and sunrise and apple pie. Instead of honest debate and partisan wrangling, we have a party which, essentially as a body, has sat down, crossed its arms and said, “You cannot pass ANYTHING, no matter how trivial or sensible, without a supermajority.”

Which sucks enough on its own. But it’s not like it’s symmetrical. You get a supermajority of today’s Republicans, and they’ll lock arms and all march in step, no matter who they walk over. You get a supermajority of today’s Democrats, and they’ll all point in different directions and run in circles, accomplishing nothing.

Jorge November 16, 2011 at 1:00 am

Okay.

Eduardo November 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Democrat-controlled or Democratic-controlled? The former sounds so awful…

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