Gibbs Offers Procedural Criticism Of Don't Ask Don't Tell Vote: '60 Is The New 50'
The Obama administration offered somewhat measured disapproval on Tuesday with the filibustering of a measure to repeal the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and with the Senate's inability to pass funds for the Department of Defense and U.S. troops.
Speaking at roughly the same time that a Republican-led faction killed consideration of the DADT amendment -- which would have overturned the prohibition of gay members from serving openly in the military -- White House spokesman Robert Gibbs focused largely on the procedural implications of the vote.
"Sixty is the new 50 and I don't mean age," he said. "To do anything in this town now you have to get 60 votes. And it is certainly not the way that many of the people who work in the Senate, including senators, thought that this is the way it ought to work."
The condemnation of the compulsive use of the filibuster by the Senate minority was a bit harder than what the White House has offered in the past. But the tone still struck some Democrats as noticeably subdued. Not only had DADT repeal been shelved. So too had the DREAM Act, which would have provided more paths to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Topping off matters, Republicans had successfully held hostage operating funding for U.S. troops over these two measures, arguing that they were non-germane to defense.
"We would never have been able to block bills like this when we weren't in power," emailed one exacerbated Democratic Senate aide. "It's bullshit. How can they block DoD [appropriations]? And all they get is a sympathetic blurb that says, "Well, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid did try to play politics with the defense reauthorization". Yeah, by adding an amendment that would give children of illegal immigrants greater rights and one that would eliminate a completely absurd gay-hating policy. They should say Republicans are unbelievable and would sack any bill even one for our troops."
Gibbs also stressed the "frustration" he and other White House officials feel over the fact that funding for the "Pentagon and for our troops" had been delayed. He also re-affirmed the president's commitment to DADT repeal and the Dream Act.
"I don't think this is the end," he offered, before punting on a question as to whether or not the package of legislation will be passed in the lame duck session after the November elections. "Obviously there will be a whole host of issues including DADT that remain undecided. Our focus right now is trying to get the business of the people done as congress remains in session."
(A Senate aide confirmed to the Huffington Post that Reid will be bringing up the same package after the elections)
But perhaps sensing the political sensitivities of the issue or cognizant that the White House still needs to negotiated with recalcitrant Republicans if they want the bill passed, the press secretary offered few rhetorical haymakers. The problem, Gibbs stressed, is procedural.
"Once again you have the new normal of needing to have 60 people needing to agree to move forward on simply providing the Pentagon with the funding that it needs for the troops," said Gibbs. "And I think it is a sad, sad day when that is the bar that everything has to go through in order to make progress."