Illegal Aliens Less Attractive to Senators than Gay Service People

By David North on December 20, 2010

It is obvious, by now, that allowing gays to serve in the armed forces is more attractive to the U.S. Senate than encouraging illegal aliens to do so. (I suspect that the Senate would not have voted to terminate don't ask-don't tell (DADT) 20 years ago.)

That broad mindset is probably good news for the restrictionists, but what intrigues me even more are the 19 members of the Senate who bucked their parties' leadership in the votes for ending DADT or initiating the DREAM Act, or both. Among these 19 are the votes that will swing the Senate one way or the other in the two years to come.

Let's do the basic numbers: the repeal of DADT was 65-31, with all 57 voting Democrats and eight Republicans on the winning side. The DREAM Act lost by 55 to 41, losing by five votes because 60 votes are needed to cut off debate; the ayes had 52 Democrats and three Republicans, the nays five Democrats and 36 Republicans.

When you cross-check the votes, there were 52 Democrats who voted with their party on both issues, and there were 29 Republicans who voted with their party on the two issues. I have counted the two sitting independents, Sanders of Vermont and Lieberman of Connecticut, with the Democrats.

This leaves the key group of 19 mavericks, a few of whom will not be returning.

Perhaps the most interesting single senator is Lisa Murkowsky (R-AK); she was the only member, on either side of the aisle, to vote against her party's leadership on both issues. Mitch McConnell (R- KY), the majority leader, has little influence with her as he directed that GOP funds be spent not only against her in her write-in victory, but against her in the ongoing recount controversy, which she also seems to be winning. It will be interesting watching her in the months to come.

Joining her in support of the DREAM Act were Richard Lugar (R-IN), who has often been to the left of his party and will stay in the Senate, and Robert Bennett (R-UT), who lost a nominating contest to a Tea Party member who went on to win the November election.

Interestingly, while Lugar and Bennett both voted against their party on the DREAM Act, neither did on DADT; seven other moderate Republicans supported the repeal, but stayed with the party on the DREAM Act. These seven potential mavericks are: Scott Brown (R-MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Ensign (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Olympia Snow (R-ME), and George Voinovich (R-OH). Of these Voinovich is not returning.

Meanwhile, five Democrats who supported the repeal of DADT, voted against the DREAM Act. They are: the two Senators from Montana, Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR). All five will return to the Senate when it returns next month, so these are allies we will not lose.

The four non-voters on both issues include two lame ducks, Jim Bunning (R- KY), who has no love for fellow Kentuckian McConnell, and Judd Gregg (R-NH), both of whom will be replaced by Republicans in the next session. Also not voting was Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has had differing views on the DREAM Act at different times, and newly elected Joe Manchin (D-WV), who when he campaigned to succeed the late Robert Byrd (D-WV) said he was "not Obama's candidate."

Manchin, known as a conservative Democrat, probably was against his party's position on both measures, but I speculate stayed away to avoid annoying the party's leaders on his first important votes.

(My biases, incidentally, are against the DREAM Act and for the repeal of DADT.)

Topics: DREAM Act