Reid Pledges To Hold Senate In Session Until January 4th To Finish DADT, Other Priorities

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) practically guaranteed that he would bring Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to a vote before Congress adjourns, suggesting that the Senate would take up the measure once it passes in the House. Reid warned Republicans that he was prepared to stay in session until the new Congress is sworn in on January 4th “to complete the work we have to do here”:

REID: We have other things to do that are extremely important. We have to make sure we complete work on the DREAM Act….If the House completes work on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we’ll have to work on that….We are going to complete the work we have to do here. I want to get out of here just as soon as we can, but we’re not going to walk away from any of the work we have to do. Christmas is a week from Saturday, I understand that, but I hope the Republicans understand that also. Because we are going to complete our work no matter how long it takes in this Congress. We have to do the work of the American people…You know, there is still Congress after Christmas. So if the Republicans think that because they can stall and stall and stall that we take a break we’re through, we’re not through. Congress ends on January 4th. So we’re going to continue working on this stuff until we get it done.

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The majority leader did not say precisely when he’ll bring the DADT measure to the floor — which, according to Lieberman has more than 60 votes — but said that it would be after the Senate ratifies the New START treaty, which could move as early as this evening.

His comments about the House voting first are also significant. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has promised to hold a vote on the House version of the stand-alone DADT tomorrow, which under one optimistic scenario, could send the bill to the Senate sometime this evening. Senate aides have indicated that the plan is to then send the bill to the upper chamber as a message that holds privileged status. Reid will be able to call up the measure without voting on a motion to proceed, saving some 30 hours of debate in the Senate, and will have to hold firm against Republican efforts to filibuster or attach amendments to the legislation. Under this scenario, the Senate bill would have to be identical to the House version or else it would have to return to the House for another vote.

The tactic is not without its problems. While Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are expected to vote for the bill, as Sam Stein points out, “Reid may have to fill the tree with amendments — thereby setting in stone how the debate process plays out. But if he does this without accommodating Republican requests, it could give senators the cover they need to oppose the measure on procedural grounds.”