White House gets involved in advance of DADT repeal vote

WHITE HOUSE GETS INVOLVED IN ADVANCE OF DADT REPEAL VOTE…. It’s a big week for the effort to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and the outcome of the dispute remains uncertain.

Key votes pending in Congress this week on whether to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibits openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military remain too close to call, advocates on both sides say.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote by the end of the week on an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which Congress passed in 1993. Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) favors a repeal, but it is unclear whether he has enough votes, with six senators on the panel considered undecided, legislative sources said.

The House is expected to vote on a similar measure this week, based on a repeal proposal sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq war veteran. The House Armed Services Committee declined to act on Murphy’s bill in passing its version of the defense spending measure last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told gay advocacy groups that she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called this an “‘all hands on deck’ moment,” adding, “For repeal to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now, including the White House. We are only a few days away from this historic vote.”

There have been rumors about increasing engagement on this issue from the Obama administration, and The Advocate reports that there were concurrent meetings this morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill that “could help clear the way” for a deal that would add a repeal provision to the upcoming defense appropriations bill.

According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would repeal the current statute this year, but implementation of repeal would not take place until after completion of the Pentagon’s working group study in December. Further, repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention and other key factors that affect the military.

We may see an S.A.P. (Statement of Administration Policy) on this as early as tomorrow, which would give the effort another added boost.

At this point, the scuttlebutt seems encouraging, but it’s safe to assume the lobbying efforts — including constituents reaching out to lawmakers — will be fairly intense this week, especially when it comes to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Stay tuned.