A growing list of Democrats — including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — are joining Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT)’s call to stay in session as long as necessary to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal amendment. This afternoon, Lieberman appeared on Fox News to argue that the measure was a matter of military priority:
LIEBERMAN: If we don’t pass the defense bill because people are blocking it because of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it will be the first time since the 1960s that Congress hasn’t passed the Defense Authorization Bill. And the reason we pass it every year is that our troops need it. We authorize money for pay increases, we authorize money for more housing for their families. There is money in there for…the protective vehicles that are troops are using more and more particularly now in Afghanistan. [...]
Nobody wants to be here over Christmas. I don’t want to be here over Christmas. The question is, do we arbitrarily say December 17th? Most American workers work right through that following week and then go home for Christmas and I hope we can do that because it would be just outrageous if we don’t pass the authorization and repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which is supported, I think, by a strong majority of the members of the Senate….Incidentally, our troops will be working right through the end of the year and beyond. Because that’s what they do for us. We owe it to them to pass this bill, which they need for benefits that they otherwise would.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) — long considered a swing vote on the issue — told me that the Senator would also be willing to stay past Christmas to have enough time to debate the issue. Asked if he would vote for cloture if Reid extended the session and provided more time for debate, the aide said Lugar is “leaning that way.”
Meanwhile, the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is organizing rally on Friday to pressure the Senate to remain in Washington until it passes the NDAA.