Sweet relief and bitter pills

Saturday's historic vote on “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a big day for President Obama and the base of the Democratic Party — disappointed by the tax-cut package signed into law Friday, but triumphant over the long-sought repeal on the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
 
Eight Republicans crossed the aisle to support a repeal of the DADT policy the Pentagon had asked the Congress to undo. While it nearly died many times, and ultimately could not be passed by attaching it to the "must-pass" defense authorization bill, a clean up-or-down vote brought out more support than even proponents knew they had.
 
But Saturday was bittersweet for Democrats, who also saw the DREAM Act, providing legalization to children brought here before the age of 16 if they finished high school and went to college or joined the military, fall short of the 60 votes needed to end the constant filibuster stream in the U.S. Senate nowadays. The 55 votes in support of the bill represented a majority, but not a large enough majority to pass the Senate.
 
Democrats expressed their disappointment following the vote, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) noted how many Republicans voted against the bill and suggested Latino voters would fight back at the ballot box in 2012. But it must be noted that with the votes of the five Democrats who voted against the DREAM Act, it would have passed. Three Republicans — Sens. Dick Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Bob Bennett of Utah — all voted for the bill, while Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) all voted against it. Newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he opposed the bill, but was absent for the vote.
 
As polls show, support for allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the military has nearly doubled from the time the policy was announced in 1993 (44 percent approved) until now, when polls show 88 percent support for lifting the DADT ban. And as both votes in the Senate suggest, approval of homosexuals serving is much higher than support for earned legalization for illegal immigrants. In these economic times, immigration is still a much more controversial vote for Democrats.
 

HAS OBAMA HAD THE BEST THREE WEEKS OF HIS PRESIDENCY? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, Dec. 21 and then takes two weeks off. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you for your support all year and we look forward to having you back in 2011!