The road ahead on DADT repeal, defense spending

THE ROAD AHEAD ON DADT REPEAL, DEFENSE SPENDING…. This afternoon, a Republican filibuster blocked the annual defense authorization bill from coming to the floor. The spending bill funds the military, but since it included a provision on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the GOP felt the need to crush it.

But here’s a pesky detail: the bill still isn’t quite dead, and the Senate still has every intention of coming back to it. Republican opposition to a military spending bill won the day, and the far-right can feel very pleased with itself this afternoon, but the money the Pentagon needed yesterday is still the same money the Pentagon will need tomorrow.

We have an “all-volunteer” fighting force, but the GOP shouldn’t take that too literally — the troops still need to get paid. Republicans just fought the bill that finances the salaries of servicemen and women, and would have even given them a raise.

So, what happens now? The defense authorization bill will be taken up again during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections.

Gay rights advocates vowed to keep pressure on the Senate Tuesday, with some believing they will have enough votes to end the ban if senators vote on the compromise in December. Several moderate Republicans have said they would vote to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” only after they review a Pentagon study of how repealing the ban might impact troop readiness and morale. The study is due to President Obama and senior military leaders on Dec. 1.

“This issue doesn’t go away,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group providing legal assistance to troops impacted by the gay ban.

“The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us,” he said.

But as today helped prove, there’s very little reason for optimism. After the Pentagon study, anti-gay Republicans will find some new rationale. It’s not as if they were sincere about this — the working of the provision already says it would merely empower the Pentagon and the White House to act. The excuse they were relying on for the basis of opposition was thin to begin with.

One other thing to keep in mind: the Senate will look different in the lame-duck, with the winners of the Senate races in Illinois and Delaware taking office immediately, not next year. If Republicans win either of those races, it will make any hopes of progress that much less likely.

Regardless, the DADT provision will still be in the bill when the Senate takes it up in the lame-duck session. It would need 60 votes to remove the language, and it’s not at all clear if those votes exist.