Senate to take up DADT repeal in December

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman 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,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “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.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

—  John Wright