The Washington Times is reporting that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is backing away from his threat to filibuster the Defense Authorization bill over a provision that begins the process of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:
There will be no filibuster of the pending defense budget bill that contains a repeal of the military’s gay ban — at least not from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is leading the fight to preserve the ban.
Contrary to a smattering of press reports, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is not trying to find the votes to block the bill, which may reach the floor next week. A filibuster takes 60 votes to override.
“Sen. McCain is not filibustering the bill,” his spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.
Asked whether Mr. McCain will offer an amendment to strike the repeal from the bill, Ms. Buchanan said, “I think it’s a bit early. Sen. McCain is still deciding on the amendments he plans to introduce.”
The turnaround is certainly welcome (McCain suggested as recently as Saturday that he would still try to filibuster the measure), but it doesn’t guarantee that the compromise will pass this year. McCain is expected to introduce an amendment requiring all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sign off on the Pentagon’s review of the policy and it’s unclear that Democrats, who have already swallowed the study, would have to votes to defeat the measure. Under the current agreement, only President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen are required to certify that a repeal would not undermine military readiness and cohesion.
In what could be another hurdle to repeal, Gates “repeated his (and President Barack Obama’s) opposition to “wasteful” defense spending such as the continuation of the C-17 production line and money for the joint strike fighter alternate engine.” “It would be a very serious mistake to believe the president would accept these unneeded programs simply because the authorization or appropriations legislation includes other provisions important to him and to this administration,” he said yesterday during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee.