Obama jumps in on DADT; Reid agrees to stay the course

It has become a day-by-day thing. One day, momentum for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell takes a turn for the better; the next day, it takes a turn for the worse.

The latest turn is for the better. President Obama and the White House this week became much more actively involved in pushing the Senate to repeal the law that bars openly gay people from the military.

The president called Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Wednesday to urge him against stripping DADT repeal language from the Defense Authorization bill. White House officials then met with senior staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and the Center for American Progress to discuss strategy.

Winnie Stachelberg, a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank lobbying for DADT repeal, said Reid’s staff indicated that another controversial issue around the defense bill—an immigration amendment—has now been stripped out for stand-alone consideration. While that could improve chances for breaking the filibuster, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it, said Stachelberg. She noted, however, that two Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine and Dick Lugar of Indiana—recently indicated they would vote to break the filibuster if Reid promises a fair and open amendment process.

Now, Reid and Levin have agreed to keep the DADT repeal language in the Defense Authorization bill and to vote on it next month. That greatly improves chances for getting repeal.

It does not, however, guarantee passage. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Reid is considering allowing Republicans to offer amendments to the overall legislation. But there is no sense yet of how many amendments he might allow and how many Lugar and Collins would consider as fair. Whatever the number, the amendments from the Republican side—if they follow the pattern Republicans have established in recent months—are likely to be hostile, unsavory, and hard to defeat. One will almost certainly seek to delete DADT repeal from the overall bill, but Stachelberg said she is confident that can be defeated.

There is no specific date yet for the fireworks to begin but Reid did indicate it would come after December 1, when the Pentagon’s study on implementing repeal is due to be submitted formally to the Secretary of Defense.

The House approved DADT repeal language as part of its Defense Authorization legislation last May. If and when the Senate approves its Defense Authorization bill—with or without repeal—a conference committee must then agree on one final version to go back to both chambers for final votes.

One Response to Obama jumps in on DADT; Reid agrees to stay the course

  1. Ah, Winnie Stachelberg, aka Benedicta Arnold, the female Quisling who stabbed gay service members in the back in May by helping Robert Gates gut the five-year-old Military Readiness Enhancement Act leaving us with an open-ended amendment requiring NOTHING…the gay rights bill equivalent of the BP Gulf oil disaster.
    Missed ya on the White House fence, Monday, Ma Chere!

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