If two weeks isn’t enough, make it three

IF TWO WEEKS ISN’T ENOUGH, MAKE IT THREE…. Based on the current schedule, the Senate Democratic leadership intends to wrap the lame-duck session on Dec. 17 — a week from Friday. Given this extremely tight calendar, and Republican delaying tactics, a whole lot of observers on both sides of the fight believe there won’t be enough time to vote on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or a host of other issues.

I made the case over the weekend that there’s an alternative: don’t quit on the 17th; work the following week. As it turns out, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) agrees.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wants the Senate to stay in session until it’s passed legislation to do away with the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Lieberman, a key Senate proponent of repealing the military’s ban on openly gay or lesbian members, doesn’t want the chamber to adjourn until it’s acted on a defense authorization bill that contains a provision to do away with the policy.

“Sen. Lieberman believes that there are at least 60 votes to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year, provided that leadership allows time for sufficient debate and amendments,” Lieberman spokeswoman Erika Masonhall said. “Wanting to go home is not an acceptable excuse for failing to pass a bill that provides essential support for our troops and veterans and failing to take action that the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for.”

I haven’t agreed so strongly with a statement from Lieberman’s office in quite a while.

Indeed, this seems like an easy call. The Dec. 17 deadline is arbitrary and self-imposed, and effectively gives the chamber less than two weeks to craft and pass a tax deal, 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.

Without significant Republican cooperation, there’s simply no way to tackle all of these issues. And given that the notion of significant Republican cooperation is completely laughable, the leadership has a choice: work the third week in December or give up on critically important issues that have no shot whatsoever in the next Congress.

So why not work the week of Dec. 20? Senators could still be home for Christmas, and Harry Reid wouldn’t have to tell his own allies, “We could have gotten DADT 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.”

Poking around this morning, I’ve noticed a growing number of folks who are on board with giving the Senate an extra week to get DADT done. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart is on board, as are Igor Volsky and Adam Serwer.

To be sure, adding an extra week wouldn’t guarantee success, but it would at least give worthwhile measures a fighting chance. Reid already threatened to keep the Senate around until Christmas Eve. Why not do just that?