The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld reports on the difficulties Democrats will face in passing the National Defense Authorization Act (and its amendment to begin the process of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) during the lame duck session, noting that the Democratic leadership will face a busy calender, a potentially devastating political set back and a re-energized Republican party:
Reality is settling in and many advocates for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” have begun to acknowledge that passing the National Defense Authorization Act in the lame-duck session after the midterm elections is unlikely at best and could ultimately rest in the hands of Republicans.
A nearly insurmountable series of negatives seem to be stacking up: The White House is not engaged, time is running terribly short, Republicans are winning the political battle on the legislation, the midterms only stand to weaken Senate Democrats, and many fear the release of the Pentagon’s study of repeal in early December could deal a final blow to the effort.
“When you actually look at how much time Congress has to be here in lame duck, and the appetite to get difficult bills done, it will be very difficult to move the defense authorization bill,” said Winnie Stachelberg, who is vice president of external affairs at the Center for American Progress and has worked on the repeal effort.
Stachelberg tempered her comments with glimmers of hope, pointing out recent remarks from White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, who last week spoke to a group of students at The University of Montana about DADT and said, “We’re going to get that done this year.”
An additional challenge facing Democrats is the uncertainty over the three new Senators from Illinois, Delaware and West Virginia who are expected to take their seats — and their first votes — within days of the Nov. 2 election. At least one of those Democratic candidates, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is now on record as opposing the existing DADT compromise. Here is the email I received from his campaign:
The Governor doesn’t believe the rules should be changed until the battlefield commanders can certify it doesn’t hurt unit cohesion.
All this means that the Senate is unlikely to take up the measure before the Pentagon releases its study, further delaying and jeopardizing repeal efforts.