Greg Sargent: DADT language could pass ‘if the Dem leadership tries to make it happen’

Posted on 17 Nov 2010 at 4:44pm

Via Greg Sargent, news that passing the DADT language is possible, but it will take some commitment from the Majority Leader:

It’s widely assumed that the White House and Dems will punt on holding a vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell during the lame duck session because there aren’t 60 votes for it in the Senate to get it past a GOP filibuster. Senator Carl Levin, who heads the relevant committee, is talking about separating out DADT repeal from the Defense Authorization Bill for precisely this reason.

But very plugged in staffers who are actively involved in counting votes for Senators who favor repeal tell me it’s premature to conclude this — and that it could still get 60 votes in the Senate. These staffers tell me they’ve received private indications from a handful of moderate GOP Senators that they could vote for cloture on a Defense Authorization Bill with DADT repeal in it — if Dem leaders agree to hold a sustained debate on DADT on the Senate floor.

Here’s why this is important: It throws the ball back into the court of Senator Harry Reid and the White House. It means the onus is on them, mainly on Reid, to agree to a two-week Senate debate on the bill, including allowing amendments. Reid had previously tried to limite amendments, leading GOP moderates to balk. And Dem leaders may not want to allow this two week debate now, because time is short and it could prolong the session. But they should do it, because it’s the only real chance to get repeal done. And it could get done.

The GOP Senators who are in play, according to these staffers, are Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. A spokesman for Lugar, Mark Helmke, tells me that Lugar would vote for cloture if Reid staged “ordered debate on a number of issues in the bill.”

Our allies, from the White House to Capitol Hill, keep saying they want to pass the Defense bill with the DADT language intact. Okay, do it.

This means that Congress can’t go home on December 10th. Senators will may have to work right up til Christmas, you know, like most Americans do (and, unlike most Americans, those Senators can’t change their plane reservations without penalties and most don’t have to worry about finding a parking space at the airport.)

There are two other developments worth noting. Greg Sargent also reports:

Sources also tell me that senators Joe Lieberman, Mark Udall and Kirsten Gillibrand will hold a press conference tomorrow urging the Dem leadership to allow the final two-week debate, arguing that this still can happen. This is no small thing: They are urging their own party leadership to do this.

And, via Kerry Eleveld, according to the White House, the President and his staffers are making calls to Senators:

“Today, President Obama called Chairman [Carl] Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck. The President’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”




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