Reid sets DADT vote

Unless measure passes before November elections, Republican gains could mean an end to repeal possibilities for the time being

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@me.com

Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night
MAKING A POINT | Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night, Sept. 12, with three former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who resigned from the academy to protest the anti-gay policy. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday, Sept. 13, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring the defense spending bill with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal measure to the floor next week.

Reid himself confirmed the decision in a post on Twitter, in response to a call by pop star Lady Gaga following MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Sept. 12.

Gaga attended the awards show with three LGBT former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who left the academy in protest over the policy.

The four were U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hall, former U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy, former U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Stacy Vasquez and former West Point cadet Katie Miller, all members of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The pop star then spoke about the importance of repealing DADT during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres after the VMAs.

The following day, Gaga sent a Tweet to all her followers urging them to contact Reid and urge him to schedule a Senate vote on repeal. Reid responded with a Tweet saying the vote had been scheduled for this coming week.

The decision — if it sticks — is an important step forward for activists hoping to repeal the federal law that bans openly gay servicemembers from the military.

Many political observers are predicting that Republicans could take over the majority in the Senate and/or House at the mid-term elections. Such a development would almost certainly kill any chance of repeal for DADT during President Barack Obama’s first term.

The DADT repeal language was attached to the annual bill that authorizes Department of Defense spending. The language calls for repeal of the military’s ban on gay servicemembers to begin after the Secretary of Defense receives an “implementation report” he has asked for, due Dec. 1, and after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff have signed a statement certifying that they have considered whatever recommendations are made in the report, prepared the necessary regulations to accompany repeal, and certified that repeal is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

Fiscal year 2011 begins Oct. 1. With the congressional clock ticking down the last days of fiscal year 2010, the pressure is on to finish off remaining budget bills authorizing spending and appropriating FY 2011 monies.

If Congress fails to settle its budget bills by the end of FY 2010, it has the option of passing “continuing resolutions” — bills that simply set the next year’s fiscal budget at the same levels as the current year.

According to the New York Times, the Senate typically spends about two weeks on the defense spending bill. Last year’s defense authorization bill was passed by the Senate in July, but it took lawmakers more than two months to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions.

So, there is no certainty that DADT will, in fact, come up during the first week or that it will even get a vote before FY 2010 runs out.

Meanwhile, when the defense authorization bill does come to the floor and the Senate begins debate on the language seeking to repeal DADT, the debate is expected to be vigorous, at least from opponents.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans have made clear they are steadfastly against repeal. The question is whether Democrats believe support for repeal could lose them votes during the mid-term elections, and potentially control of Congress.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens