Pass the damn repeal

PASS THE DAMN REPEAL…. The Washington Post reports this morning that the White House hosted a private meeting on Friday with some leading advocates of repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Officials, according to the report, were optimistic, “saying that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen would not have testified this past week if they did not believe the bill could reach Obama’s desk before January.”

It appears the pieces are in place, or at least very close. This week’s report from the Pentagon prompted two Republican “moderates” — Maine’s Susan Collins and Massachusetts’ Scott Brown — to announce their support for repeal (though both said tax cuts have to come first). Rumor has it those wouldn’t be the only two GOP votes.

With this legislative landscape in mind, I suspect Greg Sargent’s impatience, which I strongly endorse, is a common sentiment on the left.

Now that Republicans have successfully filibustered Obama’s plan to continue tax cuts for everyone but the wealthiest Americans, the only way Dems can walk out of the lame duck session with a genuine victory is to repeal don’t Ask Don’t Tell. So it’s good to see that White House officials are still privately signaling that a vote is likely to happen.

Getting Republicans to agree to a vote on New START, while hugely important, wouldn’t count as winning something. It has been endorsed by a whole range of GOP foreign policy experts and former officials. It should be a no-brainer. Repealing DADT is the only remaining way this year for Dems to remind their supporters that they are still capable of winning, that there’s a reason to elect Democrats, and that Dems aren’t pathologically predisposed to getting rolled in the name of “compromise.”

Just do it. No nonsense about the calendar. No excuses about GOP obstructionism. Make it happen.

Now, I suspect if Harry Reid were to read that, he’d say to himself, “Easy for you to say. ‘Make it happen’ is tougher in this Senate than it sounds.”

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic. If the plan is to wrap up the lame-duck session once and for all on Dec. 17, Reid and the Democratic leadership have to pray the tax policy dispute is resolved very quickly, which in turn would (hopefully) lead Republicans to drop their hostage strategy. The Senate effectively has this week and next to pass a tax deal, a bill to fund the government, ratify New START, and bring DADT repeal, the DREAM Act, the corrected food-safety bill, and several other items to the floor.

More than a few repeal advocates are concerned that scrapping “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be the one thing that gets left out with so little time remaining. And though I’m sure folks get tired of seeing me write this, it’s worth reemphasizing once more that, unlike some other measures, if DADT repeal fails this month, it’s very likely Congress won’t even consider it again until 2013, if not even later.

My suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to forget about the scheduled completion date of Dec. 17. Reid has raised the specter of working the week of Dec. 20, and if he announces his plans to do so, it might loosen up some Republican stalling tactics — since they’d like to go home sooner rather than later.

If the goal is to squeeze a whole lot of work into two weeks, some important measures will fail. So why not add a third week? Senators could still be home for Christmas, and Reid wouldn’t have to tell his own allies, “We could have gotten repeal done, but senators wanted another week off for vacation, so U.S. troops will have to continue having their rights denied for a few more years.”