The last chance on DADT for a long while

THE LAST CHANCE ON DADT FOR A LONG WHILE…. Given the make-up of the next Congress, policymakers will have just one more chance to clear the way for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — and it will come during the lame-duck Senate session that begins in two weeks. If the effort fails, it will be at least two years, and probably more, before anyone can even try again.

Democrats seem to be well aware of this.

The president and the top Senate Democrat signaled Wednesday they would try during the lame-duck session at the end of the year to push for a repeal of the military ban against openly gay troops serving in the military, but the hurdles for success loom large.

The Democrats failed to get enough votes this fall to move on the repeal, but are likely to try to bring it up again after the military completes its assessment of the impact of a policy change, which is due to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by December 1.

The obstacles may prove insurmountable, but it won’t take much for common sense to win this one. When the issue was considered before the Senate adjournment, Democrats needed just one GOP vote, but Republicans refused to oblige. In the lame-duck, Dems will need two GOP votes — thanks to voters in Illinois, Mark Kirk (R) will join the Senate when it reconvenes on Nov. 15, and he’s against DADT repeal.

The subject came up during a White House press conference yesterday, and President Obama reiterated his support for ending the policy, emphasizing that the “overwhelming majority of Americans feel the same way.” The president also noted that the Pentagon review will be complete in about a month, which in turn “will give us time to act … potentially during the lame duck session to change this policy.”

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday about the defense authorization bill, “If we can get some agreement from the Republicans that we can move the bill without a lot of extraneous amendments, I think it’s something we could work out. That would be my goal.”

The comments didn’t exactly exude optimism.

In about a month’s time, a majority of the troops, a majority of American civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and two of his recent predecessors will all be saying the exact same thing: it’s time to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

And in all likelihood, it’ll be up to Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine to decide whether the repeal effort lives or dies.