DADT faces unclear path in Senate, could die without action soon

This is not good. Not good at all.

There’s a reason why Servicemember United’s Alex Nicholson raised concerns about moving the Defense Authorization bill last week. There’s a reason why SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis raised concerns about moving the Defense Authorization bill today. There’s no clear path to get that Defense bill to the floor. And, the compromise DADT repeal legislation is included in that Defense bill.

Kerry Eleveld reports that the key decision about moving forward now rests with Majority Leader Harry Reid:

Fearful that delaying action on “don’t ask, don’t tell” until after the midterms could potentially kill the measure for the year, repeal advocates are pushing Senate majority leader Harry Reid to schedule a Senate floor vote on the defense funding bill in September.

“I’m a little anxious,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The reality is the number of legislative days in this Congress are rapidly dwindling, and we need to see that the defense authorization bill up on the Senate floor in September.”

When Congress returns to Washington next week, the Senate will have until October 8 when they leave for the midterms to take the crucial vote on the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the provision to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

But one political operative and repeal advocate noted the bill will be competing for attention with new legislation Democrats are pushing that would provide tax breaks for businesses.

“The Democrats are trying to figure out what they can effectively do in those four weeks to distinguish themselves from Republicans before the midterm elections,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The tax cut issue may provide that contrast.”

The source wagered that if the Senate floor vote does not take place before the midterms, the defense funding bill would have a “50-50” shot of passing before the end of this Congress. If it is not finalized by year’s end, the repeal effort will die.

You read that right. Despite all the promise, the repeal effort could die.

That’s why SLDN is ready to turn up the heat:

But if Sarvis does not see such a commitment soon, he said, SLDN will take the fight to Reid’s home turf in order to lobby for action.

“We’ll take it to Nevada or Arizona or wherever we need to go to get the job done,” he said.

Also, HRC’s Fred Sainz isn’t quite accurate about this:

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said the Senate has no reason to shy away from addressing “don’t ask, don’t tell” politically because House members who voted for repeal have not been targeted on the issue.

“We have yet to see even one member where the fact that they voted for repeal is being used against them in their reelection battle,” Sainz said

One member has been targeted with a DADT ad. That would be Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Family Research Council put an ad on the air in Nevada aimed at Reid — on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. What a coincidence, huh? When this ad appeared on August 26th, I wrote:

My guess is that, given the timing, FRC’s ad is not so much about the Senate campaign. It’s more about trying to make Reid delay consideration of the Defense Authorization bill, which currently includes the DADT repeal legislation. As we noted earlier today, Republicans want to push this issue into the lame duck session in order to kill it. FRC is hoping this ad psyches out Harry Reid. I can’t imagine it will work.

I’m starting to wonder if that ad had more of an impact than I initially imagined.

Repealing DADT is as close to a political no-brainer as exists. There’s huge public support. There’s bipartisan support. The Cheney’s support it. Only among the professional Democrats in DC is it viewed as a political liability.

Not passing the compromise DADT language will become a political liability for those responsible. Promises were made. Promises better be kept.


—  John Wright