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CNN's Yellin: Congress's Low Polls Numbers Due to Failure to Repeal DADT?

On Wednesday's Newsroom, CNN's Jessica Yellin bizarrely implied that Congress's low poll numbers was linked to their failure to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." After noting the public's support for repeal, Yellin stated that "Congress has its lowest approval rating in the history of polling...So it's clear that the American people are in one place, and one place where they're not so happy with Congress."

Anchor Brooke Baldwin raised the "don't ask, don't tell" issue and how the House of Representatives was taking up a stand-alone bill that would repeal the 17-year-old policy. She asked the liberal CNN correspondent whether the Senate would pass the legislation, given how a previous repeal proposal was rejected just last week (as part of the defense authorization bill): "Why might the Senate change its collective mind? I remember the vote last Thursday. It was 57 to 40. They didn't have those three extra. So, all right, who's going to change their mind or why?"

After a discussion about the legislative dynamics on this specific issue in the Senate, Baldwin set up Yellin for her citation of the poll numbers:

BALDWIN: Might this, Jessica, be one of those things where- you know, the public, thinking this was a done deal- it died in the Senate last week, case closed- but simply, Congress just is lagging behind that sentiment? YELLIN: Yeah. There- it's clear, Brooke, that a clear majority of Americans supports repealing 'don't ask, don't tell.' A new Gallup poll has 67 percent of Americans supporting repeal. So the American public's ready for it. Interestingly, Gallup also shows that Congress has its lowest approval rating in the history of polling- BALDWIN: Right. YELLIN: Just 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing. So it's clear that the American people are in one place, and one place where they're not so happy with Congress either.

Neither CNN personality mentioned that a November 23, 2010 Gallup poll found that Americans didn't rank the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal as a high priority for the lame-duck Congress. Those who responded to the poll put keeping the estate tax low, extending the current tax rates, extending unemployment benefits, and passing the new START treaty ahead of this issue. The only issue that ranked lower than the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal was the passage of the DREAM Act. One could reasonably conclude that Americans are more frustrated with Congress over economic issues, instead of what Yellin concluded.

The full transcript of segment from Wednesday's Newsroom, which began 17 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour:

BALDWIN: Remember, late last week- I think it was Thursday- it seemed the effort to let gays serve openly in the military- you know, was done for. Remember, how it died in the Senate? We brought it to you live here on CNN. Well, how about this? This is happening right now. The House is about to start this debate all over again, and we're hearing, within the next hour, we should have a vote on a law to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.' Right now, it's a stand-alone bill.

So, I want to explain. If you're sitting there scratching you head, wondering- wait a second, how could this happen? Here's how: an earlier effort in the Senate was part of a bigger defense bill. Remember, the defense authorization bill, doing away with the 'don't ask, don't tell'- that was just one part, just one part of that massive piece of legislation and that one of part of the bill was killed. Well, yesterday, two House members proposed this stand-alone measure to repeal, specifically, 'don't ask, don't tell'- that and that alone- and, yes, they can do that. And so, the debate, I'm told, is about to start with an up-or-down vote to then follow, and we're going to be watching some of this together. We will bring it to you live, of course. But I want to just jump ahead a step or two, if you will allow me to do that. If the vote here in the House succeeds, then the measure, of course, has to go back to the Senate.

And Jessica Yellin, I want to bring you in to this in Washington. My question to you is this: why might the Senate change its collective mind? I remember the vote last Thursday. It was 57 to 40. They didn't have those three extra. So, all right, who's going to change their mind or why?

YELLIN: So, Brooke, when the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' failed last time, it wasn't on the merits of the issue itself. As you pointed out, that repeal was included in a huge bill that had many other issues in it and that vote failed mainly because Republicans vowed not to vote for anything else until tax cuts and budget issues were revolved. So, the House of Representatives said- okay, we'll just vote on a simple bill that's just to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' and send it back to the Senate to give them a second pass at repeal, after tax cuts and budget votes are done, and that's what we're looking at now.

BALDWIN: So, going back to last week, I mentioned the vote tally. The Senate was three votes short of the- that 60, the magic number 60, that the supporters of this needed. So, I want to tick off some of the names here- and it was Republican Lisa Murkowski. It was Scott Brown and Dick Lugar. On the Democrats' side, you had Joe Manchin and Blanche Lincoln. All five have expressed- you know, in differing degrees, some support for letting gays serve openly, but none of the five was among the 57 who supported ending the ban last Thursday. So if- you know, you do your math, it's pretty simple. Only three of the five would need to switch. But, Jessica, there's another issue here, and that being, sort of, the calendar. The lame-duck session could run out of time, could they not? I mean, is there any guarantee that they could even get a vote into this thing by the end of the year?

YELLIN: There's no guarantee and that's an excellent question. As a friend of mine here says, it's beginning to look a lot like last Christmas, when the Senate stayed way late. Remember, they stayed way late into Christmas to vote on health care, and part of the unknown here is the timetable. So, right now, working on the side of those who want to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' is a lot of momentum. If this passes the House, the White House wants this measure passed. Defense Secretary Gates has called for Congress pass it. It's co-sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and- an independent- and Susan Collins, a Republican, who have both bipartisan and national security credentials. So, those are all reason why it seems likely to get through. Senate aides say you did some of the faces who voted- were- didn't vote or were no-votes before. They say they have 60 votes to pass it. So, all they need to do is get it to the floor. The question is, will there be time? [Senator Majority] Leader Reid says they are going to- they are planning to bring it, but there are all sorts of ways- this is the Senate- where it could be delayed, put off. Republicans could block it in other ways- who knows?

BALDWIN: Might this, Jessica, be one of those things where- you know, the public, thinking this was a done deal- it died in the Senate last week, case closed- but simply, Congress just is lagging behind that sentiment?

YELLIN: Yeah. There- it's clear, Brooke, that a clear majority of Americans supports repealing 'don't ask, don't tell.' A new Gallup poll has 67 percent of Americans supporting repeal. So the American public's ready for it. Interestingly, Gallup also shows that Congress has its lowest approval rating in the history of polling-

BALDWIN: Right.

YELLIN: Just 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing. So it's clear that the American people are in one place, and one place where they're not so happy with Congress either.

BALDWIN: Not good-looking numbers for Congress coming out today.


- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.