Despite assurances from President Obama that the Senate would at least attempt to take-up the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell amendment in the lame duck session of Congress, the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler are both reporting that Democrats on the Armed Services Committee are now considering stripping the National Defense Authorization Act (in which repeal is housed) of any “controversial” provisions to move forward a bare-bones proposal:
MECKLER: Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September. A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, who opposes the repeal, confirmed he is in talks with Mr. Levin on how to proceed on the defense bill but didn’t provide details.
ELEVELD: A person close to the process said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is looking into a deal with Sec. Gates that would cut ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ out of the Defense bill in order to smooth its way to passage. “Levin is making calls under the premise – we can’t afford to waste time on a controversial provision, so we’ll strip out the controversial provision and be able to get the bill on and off the floor in the available amount of time,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, the reports coincide with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ first public endorsement of passing repeal in the lame duck session and Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos’ more cautious comments.
At a press availability en route to Melbourne, Australia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that he would like Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the lame duck session but was “not sure what the prospects for that are,“ while Amos expressed concerns about “a possible loss of unit cohesion and combat readiness if the ban is overturned.“ Amos’ remarks surprised Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, who was under the impression that “the top brass had agreed to make recommendations privately to Defence Secretary Robert Gates.” “I was surprised by what he said and surprised he said it publicly,” Mullen told reporters in Australia.
The future of repeal is uncertain. However, during an interview with progressive bloggers before the midterm elections, Obama told AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay that he had a strategy and would be personally involved in ending the ban once the Senate reconvenes later this month:
Q Is there a strategy for the lame-duck session to –
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q — and you’re going to be involved?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Will Secretary Gates be involved?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to tip my hand now. But there is a strategy.
THE PRESIDENT: And, look, as I said –
Q Can we call it a secret plan? (Laughter.) [Note: this wasn't me]
THE PRESIDENT: I was very deliberate in working with the Pentagon so that I’ve got the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs being very clear about the need to end this policy.