Could New START, DADT Repeal Have Been Passed in New Congress?

by Katrina Trinko

If the new Senate Republicans had been sworn into office immediately following the election, would the New START treaty have been ratified? Would Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have been repealed?

Looking at the vote records, it appears that the New START treaty would not have been ratified, but the DADT repeal would have still passed the Senate, although its fate in the House is less certain.

Six retiring Democrats voted to ratify New START: Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Chris Dodd (Conn.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Russ Feingold (Wisc.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), and Arlen Specter (Pa.). All of them, with the exception of Dodd, will be replaced by Republicans in the new sessions. Three retiring Republicans also voted for ratification: Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Judd Gregg (N.H.), and George Voinovich (Ohio). All three will be succeeded by Republicans.

START’s final vote was 71 to 26. Sixty-seven votes are required to ratify a treaty. So if five of the eight incoming Republicans were against ratification, the New START treaty would not have had enough votes. Of course, 13 Republicans did vote for New START, ten of whom who were not retiring, so perhaps fewer than five of the eight would have opposed it.

For the DADT repeal, the final vote tally was 65 – 31. The same six retiring Democrats that voted for the new START treaty voted for the repeal. On the GOP side, the only retiree that voted for it was Voinovich.  So out of those seven senators, six will be succeeded by Republicans in the new session. Does that mean DADT would have been short a vote? No, because Specter’s successor, Republican Pat Toomey, had announced that he supported repealing DADT.

But would DADT have been able to pass the House if the new Republican majority was there? When the House voted to repeal DADT in mid-December, it was by a 250 – 175 vote, with only 15 Republicans voting in favor. In the next session of the House, there will be 193 Democrats and 242 Republicans, meaning that if every single Democrat voted for repeal (which they didn’t this time: 15 voted against it) about 25 Republicans would have to vote for repeal to get the bill passed.