Where things stand on DADT repeal

WHERE THINGS STAND ON DADT REPEAL…. The flurry of activity on the Senate floor yesterday in the attempt to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was almost as dizzying as it was disappointing. But Republicans’ success in defeating the measure hasn’t quite killed the repeal effort, at least not yet.

The first question is what, exactly, led to the breakdown. At the surface, it seemed as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), negotiating on behalf of a small contingent of pro-repeal Republicans, had a reasonable demand: 15 amendments over four days of debate. Why couldn’t Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agree to the terms? Because, as Greg Sargent explained yesterday, the GOP’s notion of four days of debate takes a lot longer than four days.

Given far-right delaying tactics, and hopes about tackling the tax deal and arms treaty, the lame-duck session would have gone into January.

So where does that leave proponents of repeal? Pinning ones hopes on a stand-alone bill.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) vowed not to end their efforts to repeal the military’s ban on gay service members after bipartisan talks broke down Thursday afternoon.

“It ain’t over till it’s over. We’ve got the 60 votes, and we’re going to keep fighting,” Lieberman said.

The fact that the 60 votes are, in fact, in place is not insignificant. Indeed, the expectations are that once the tax policy is resolved, Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), among others, will be prepared to do the right thing (after having already done the wrong thing). But if the dispute over the tax agreement drags on, the stand-alone bill stands no chance of even being considered.

That said, pointing to the larger context, Politico noted this morning, “[T]he fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates.” Quite right.

One of those advocates, by the way, is President Obama, who issued a rather scathing statement yesterday afternoon, at least by White House standards, blasting “yet another filibuster,” and offering a reminder that the status quo “weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality.”

The White House has also endorsed the notion of another legislative attempt in the lame-duck session, and Organizing for America sent out a message to supporters overnight, insisting that they’re “not done fighting on DADT.”

As for the House, Reid’s office was in contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who agreed that her chamber would gladly take up the Lieberman/Collins stand-alone bill. Soon after, Pelosi’s office issued a statement, vowing support for the move.

I don’t want to give anyone false optimism here. This is a long shot, and anti-gay Republicans would very likely throw all kinds of procedural hurdles in the way of the Lieberman/Collins effort.

But this isn’t impossible. It helps that Reid has already agreed to co-sponsor the bill, will bypass the committee process, and appears committed to bringing it to the floor. Perhaps the two most important angles in the very short term are the duration of the tax debate and the willingness to push back the end of the session beyond Dec. 17 (a week from today).

The odds of success on repeal aren’t great, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it.