Sen. Manchin AWOL on DADT

The U.S. Senate is taking significant votes today on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and immigration reform, but Senator Joe Manchin is absent and not voting.

Earlier today, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture to overcome a filibuster on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The bill is now expected to pass and allow gays to serve openly in the military.  Sen. Rockefeller voted in favor of repeal, but Sen. Manchin was conspicuously absent from the vote on cloture.

A vote on passage is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, but there is no word whether Sen. Manchin will cast a vote.  (Sen. Manchin did issue a statement today expressing opposition to repeal DADT.)

Sen. Manchin was also absent from this morning's vote on the DREAM Act, which would help young immigrants have a path to citizenship.  The vote on cloture was defeated by GOP Senators, on a 55-41 vote. (Because we live in bizarro world, 41 no votes is more powerful than 55 yes votes.)

Does anyone know where Senator Manchin is today?  Apparently, he supports the GOP position on both of these issues, which is in itself a huge disappointment. But, failing to even vote makes the situation worse.

Something tells me that Sen. Byrd would have found a way to cast votes on these important issues.

The Charleston Gazette's Alison Knezevich reports that Sen. Manchin missed today's votes due to a “family obligation”.

Sen. Manchin's spokeswoman Sara Payne Scarbro said in an e-mail to Knezevich that Sen. Manchin and his wife Gayle:
“planned a holiday gathering over a year ago with all their children and grandchildren as they will not all be together on Christmas Day.”

“While he regrets missing the votes, it was a family obligation that he just could not break,” Payne Scarbro said. “However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues.”