DADT repeal — still not dead

DADT REPEAL — STILL NOT DEAD…. Last week, Senate Republicans once again refused to allow members to consider a defense authorization spending measure because it includes a provision clearing the way for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It looked as if those waiting for the end of the policy would have to count on the courts.

But almost immediately after the failed Senate vote, there was talk of a stand-alone bill, championed in the Senate by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), which could muster 60 votes. The problem is the calendar — there’s just not much time left in the lame-duck session.

Moving forward, there’s clearly a desire to get this done, but the legislative maneuvers are a little tricky. Part of any strategy would be House action on a stand-alone bill, which could expedite the process in the Senate. Josh Gerstein reported overnight that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) are poised to move on this.

By evening, it appeared that identically-worded bills would be moved independently in each body depending on the flow of business, rather than moving from one body to the other. House action still seemed likely to precede Senate action on the legislation, however, because of the likely need for a cloture petition and associated debate on the Senate side due to the filibuster expected from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Repeal advocates view the standalone bill as their best hope for enacting legislation to set in motion a repeal of the ban on openly gay servicemembers. Advocates had pinned their hopes on the broader defense authorization bill, which already contains conditional repeal language, but it fell three votes short last week of the 60 needed to move to the floor. However, during that process it appeared that there were more than 60 votes for repeal itself, so backers quickly shifted their focus to passing a standalone bill.

At this point, it seems pretty clear that the votes are in place. Even Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) has said he’s “sympathetic” to the stand-alone repeal bill, and may vote for it once the Senate has dealt with the tax issue and New START ratification.

Dave Weigel added that the process may hinge on how quickly the House deals with the tax policy agreement. If it moves quickly, it’s likely DADT repeal will get the time it needs.