Politico’s Josh Gerstein points out that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) opposition to the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell study and his insistence on holding hearings on the matter will likely sink any remaining prospects of repealing the ban during the lame duck session. Unless the Pentagon releases the report ahead of its December 1st due date, lawmakers simply won’t have enough time to consider the measure before the end of the Congressional session:
Holding hearings during the busy and short lame-duck session could be tricky, but even if feasible such a move could doom repeal legislation for this Congress simply because of time and the necessary sequence of events. Repeal backers want an initial vote on “don’t ask” in the first part of the lame-duck session, set for this week. However, many senators have indicated they want to hold off on voting on “don’t ask” until the Pentagon study is back.
If McCain can hold off Senate floor action on the defense authorization bill which contains conditional repeal language not only until December 1 but until after hearings on the Pentagon report, that may well kill repeal for this year. If the Senate waits until after hearings to move on “don’t ask,” it would then need time to bring the defense bill to the floor, debate and vote on what could be a lengthy list of amendments, end debate, pass the bill, conference it with the House, and re-pass it in the Senate. Even if the Senate began work on the bill this week, that would be a tall order and if the body takes no action until, say, the second week in December, it becomes hard to see how passage could be accomplished in the face of continued resistance by McCain and others.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a belated call for moving up the release date on Friday, but the Defense Department — which has been surprisingly vocal in calling on Congress to repeal the ban during the lame duck session — isn’t budging. “The full report will be made public for all to review early next month,” Gerstein quotes DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell as saying. The sentiment only reiterates the notion that repeal isn’t a top priority for the administration or most Democrats — or at least isn’t important enough to pressure the Pentagon or Congress to expedite the process.
Last week, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer meekly suggested that repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military is “at least worth a shot” during the lame duck session and on yesterday’s Sunday shows, Senators from both parties only echoed his tone.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “I don’t think there’s a lot of time, and I don’t think there’s a lot of appetite to jam stuff through,” and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) — a repeal supporter — actually agreed. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the lame duck?” he asked.
The crux of the problem is that the administration has signaled that repealing the ban — while a laudable goal — isn’t an important enough accomplishment to spend any serious political capitol attaining. As R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, the White House isn’t even pressuring moderate on-the-fence Senators to support repeal.
“[T]hese are all senators who would be willing to have a dialogue, and they have not heard from the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, which is an arm of the Executive Office of the President,” relayed Cooper. “So again, if President Obama is serious about this as a legislative priority, there are Republican offices that need a phone call.” And he should call the Pentagon while he’s at it.
David Badash of the New Civil Rights Movement reports:
Dan Choi, and other LGBT Veterans and GetEqual activists have just left Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Hart Senate Office building office to ask Reid to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill, which is attached to the National Defense Authorization Act.
One aide to Senator Reid reportedly said that they “cannot guarantee” the bill coming to a vote “before Thanksgiving,” and that “the White House has not been engaged.”