With the U.S. House ready to swear in a new Republican majority, it’s time for a last look at one of the more interesting partisan divisions from the late "Lame Duck" post-election session.

 The roll calls that passed legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” thereby allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military, are worth parsing because, as the 112th Congress proceeds, this early vote may prove to be a harbinger of altered voting patterns that might take shape in the next two years. 

 The "Lame Duck" vote saw a stream of House Members shift from “nay” to “aye” on both sides of the aisle since the body first voted on this issue back in May, and the margin approving repeal expanded from 40 in the first vote to 75.   

 The House had previously approved repeal back in May when it approved language in an amendment attached to the defense authorization bill.  The Senate failed to bring the matter up to a vote before the election.   Both chambers approved a stand-alone bill during this “"Lame Duck"” session.  (House vote here.) 

In the Senate, from National Review Online’s “The Corner,” Robert Costa and Andrew Stiles dubbed the votes of Republican Sens. John Ensign (NV) and Richard Burr (NC) in favor of final passage of DDAT repeal as “a surprising move” because both “vot(ed) against cloture earlier in the day.”  (Ensign’s vote, despite his cloture “nay,” entirely a shock, and had been hinted for over a month.)

A reasonable working assumption is that the “Lame Duck” offered cover for Members who wanted to back repeal, but feared retribution at the polls.  Republican “ayes” ticked up to 15 in the "Lame Duck" from only 5 in May.  Democratic “nay” votes dropped from 26 to 15 after the election.

Here’s a sorting out some of the House Members who switched their votes in the "Lame Duck,” and a few quick observations about the political calculus (or, perhaps freed from facing voters or their party’s leadership in the future, lack thereof).

GOP “nays” in May; “Ayes” in "Lame Duck":
Mary Bono Mack (CA)
John Campbell (CA)
Mike Castle (DE)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL)
David Dreier (CA)
Vernon Ehlers (MI)
Jeff Flake (AZ)
Dave Reichart (FL)

*Todd Platts (PA) did not vote in May, but voted “aye” in the "Lame Duck.'
Rep. Castle was famously upset in his Senate primary by social conservative Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell.  Had Castle not faced O’Donnell, it’s like he would have backed DDAT repeal. Rep. Ehlers, one the last suburban Midwestern moderates, announced his retirement before May, when he voted “nay,” perhaps to help the GOP hold onto his seat where Obama slashed Bush’s margins of victory in 2008. Rep. Diaz-Balart is retiring and may not have wanted to put his fellow Cuban-American Republicans at risk in neighboring districts where younger generations are less firmly in the GOP camp.  His Cuban-American colleague, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backed repeal in both votes, though.

Reps. Bono Mack, Dent and Reichert were endorsed this cycle by the Log Cabin Republicans, the GOP gay group that had agitated against DDAT in the courts. All three were reelected with underwhelming margins in a big Republican year.  Arguablely, the Democratic and socially moderate trends in these districts might have made a pre-election case for these three to vote for repeal, but in a close race, they may have demurred from upsetting their still more conservative electoral base which they may have feared would depress turnout and jeopardize their re-elections.

Reps. Campbell and Flake are known for their libertarian streaks. They may be personally more socially libertarian than their Republican primary electorate (Flake had an active primary challenge), and having been safely reelected by wide margins may have emboldened them to follow Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) lead, who voted for DDAT repeal in May, even though he’s a libertarian who’s not terribly comfortable with addressing social issues.

Rep. Dreier has been considered to be favorable to gay rights, but has been criticized by some activists for failing to follow through. The GOP takeover, with himself at the helm of the powerful Rules committee, may have emboldened the veteran legislator.

Rep. Platts has a safe Republican seat, and issued a statement saying that the Department of Defense’s review on the matter influenced his vote.  Platts was also endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans this cycle.

Dem “nays” in May; “Ayes” in "Lame Duck":
Rick Boucher (VA)
Sanford Bishop (GA)
Jerry Costello (IL)
Chris Carney (PA)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Chet Edwards (TX)
Bobby Etheridge (NC)
Gene Green (TX)
Bill Lipinski (IL)
Earl Pomeroy (ND)
Heath Shuler (NC)
John Spratt (SC)

Reps. Carney, Edwards, Etheridge, Pomeroy and Spratt all went down to defeat in November. Reps. Bishop and Donnelly escaped defeat but had close calls.  Personal view may have trumped district opinion after November.

Neither Democratic Reps. Dan Boren (OK) or Artur Davis (AL) voted in May, but both voted against repeal in the “Lame Duck.” Boren is arguably the most conservative Democrat entering the 112th Congress.  Congressional Black Caucus Member Davis’ voting record had tacked to the right during his bid for governor of Alabama, but those stances hurt him with Alabama’s Democratic primary electorate, and he lost the nomination.  Davis’ “Lame Duck” vote to repeal may indicate that he wants to run statewide again and wants to reassure assure conservative white voters that he’s on their side.

Rep. Shuler may be in the most interesting position. Shuler challenged outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) for House Democratic Leader from the right, but was surprised by a strong but underfunded primary challenge from the left. Officially, Shuler cited the Defense Department review for his shift from “nay” to “aye.”

Reps. Costello and Lipinski hail from socially conservative but solidly Democratic districts at opposite ends of Illinois. Costello has been mum on his switch, but Lipinski cited the Defense Department review in explaining his shift.
A few defeated and retiring Democrats voted against repeal both times and may be principled opponents of DDAT, although they could have rematches on their minds: Reps. Marion Berry (AR), Bobby Bright (AL), Travis Childers (MS), Jim Marshall (GA), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Ike Skelton (MO), John Tanner (TN) and Gene Taylor (MS).
Overall, it looks like House Members are becoming less wary of taking a pro-gay rights vote, even with 2010’s historic Republican wins. On the Republican side, the Tea Party’s personal freedom rhetoric may be offering cover, or inspiration, for GOP Members to take more socially libertarian stances.