The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld attended a White House press gaggle this afternoon where Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told her that while passing the National Defense Authorization Act — which contains the amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — is a priority for the administration, President Obama has not yet reached out to swing Senators on the issue:
ELEVELD: Sen. Susan Collins joined Sen. Lieberman in calling for early release of the Pentagon’s report on repeal. Has the president made any phone calls to Sen. Collins or other swayable senators – does he plan to make any phone calls to those folks?
GIBBS: I don’t know that the president has – I don’t believe that the president has talked to Sen. Collins or Sen. Lieberman on this issue. To my knowledge, the study has not come over here. Obviously, it’s being finished up by the Pentagon. […]
ELEVELD: Just today, you’ve that the START treaty is something you think will get done [during the lame duck], and you’ve said the [middle class] tax cuts are something that you have to get done. What category would you put the Defense authorization bill in?
GIBBS: I would put it in the same category. As I’ve said before, it’s a priority for the president to get it done before the end of the year.
I should note that this may contradict what a White House official told the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel last week. That individual said that the administration has “reached out to Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the issue, making calls as recently as Monday night.” “The Administration has not wavered from its stance that the DADT repeal should be passed during this Congress,” the official stated.
Gates’ comments focus on the President ( rather than the administration as a whole) but they do square fairly well with what I’ve been hearing from staff members for the swing senators — Snowe, Collins, Voinovich, Webb, Manchin: the administration isn’t lobbying on the issue and hasn’t called. And, it’s the same thing that the Log Cabin Republicans have complained about to Terkel and Eleveld. On Monday, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also told repeal activists that he “cannot guarantee” the bill coming to a vote “before Thanksgiving,” and that “the White House has not been engaged.”
Meanwhile, one Senate Democratic aide told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson that “repeal — currently pending before the U.S. Senate as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill — is ‘barely hanging on with life support.'”
“The only way to resuscitate this effort and get a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ vote is for President Obama and [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates to start pushing directly, something we on the Hill had expected the president and Gates to do long ago,” the aide said.
The American people are of course still on board. A new CNN poll finds that support for repealing the measure has increased from 67% in September to 72%. Only 23% of Americans oppose repeal.
The White House has issued the following statement:
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.
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.