IS DADT REPEAL STILL ON TRACK?…. Legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still picking up co-sponsors — in the House, 186 members have signed onto H.R. 1283 — but as of November, proponents were working on an alternate approach. Just as expansion of hate-crime protections were included in last year’s Defense spending bill, Dems launched a plan to pursue DADT repeal through the next Pentagon appropriations measure.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made it sound as if this had been the plan all along — “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was always going to be part of the military authorization.” He added at the time that the White House was “totally committed to this and has been from the beginning.”

Is this plan still on track? Sam Stein reports today that there’s reason to be encouraged.

Congressional negotiators and White House officials are moving forward with plans to add the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to the upcoming defense authorization bill, Democratic sources tell the Huffington Post.

In Congress, members are being whipped to ensure that the votes will be there for passage, should the legislation be placed in the bill. At this juncture, aides say, the prospects look good. Meanwhile, a source close to the White House says the president has instructed the Defense Department that he believes the repeal of DADT should be placed in the authorization bill.

Sounds good to me. It’s hardly a done deal, but the appropriate players are sending the appropriate signals. That President Obama wants this to happen makes it far more likely to come to fruition.

Also note the legislative strategy here. Support for repealing DADT is quite strong, but there are plenty of antsy Democrats worried about re-election who may not want to tackle this as a freestanding bill. Adding it to Defense appropriations — a must pass bill that finances, among other things, both wars the U.S. is currently engaged in — makes repeal both easier and more likely. Even Blue Dogs who may otherwise balk are unlikely to “vote against the troops” in an election year, just to prevent gay servicemen and women from fighting for their country.

There’s also the not-insignificant matter of generating some excitement within the Democratic base before the midterms. Scrapping this indefensible policy is not just a priority for the LGBT community — it’s a sought after step for anyone who rejects discrimination, supports equality and fairness, and is concerned about military readiness. For those who take rallying the base even a little seriously, this should be a no-brainer.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.