During this afternoon’s White House press briefing, the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld pressed Robert Gibbs on why the President has not been more bullish in pressing the Senate to pass repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell during the lame duck session. Arguing that Obama has used his bully pulpit to press Congress to act on START and has even appeared with Gen. Colin Powell to build support for the measure, Eleveld asked why the President has not adopted a similar tact to advocating for DADT repeal.
Gibbs refused to ask the question, instead reiterating the fact that Obama’s leadership has helped move the issue “to this point”:
ELEVELD: It’s looking like the votes can be there, but Senator Reid is sort of giving mixed signals about whether or not there will be time to do this and sort of how committed he seems to be to making it happen before the end of the year. You’ve said a number of times that this is important to the President. Why not put the President in front of the camera, why not let him use his bully pulpit to lobby for this getting done before Congress goes home? Because for instance with START, he was in front of the cameras with General Powell. [...]
GIBBS: Let’s be clear, we would not be at this point if it wasn’t for the President’s leadership in bringing this issue to the floor. You mentioned, I believe we have the votes….There is time to do this if there are those on the other side of the aisle that wish to get this done and it’s clear that whether it’s Senator Brown or Senator Murkowski or Senator Snowe or others, there is an effort to get this done if we have time to.
Indeed, the strongest direct advocate for holding a vote before the lame duck session appears to be Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) who today, urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold a vote on DADT repeal before START. “I believe instead of going back to the START treaty, we should go to the independent stand-alone repeal of don’t ask don’t tell Saturday night,” Lieberman said. “We can get it done by Monday, maybe Tuesday at the latest, and then go back to the START treaty.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent argues that this is the best case scenario for repealing the policy since “[i]f Reid waits until New START is done before holding the vote on DADT, Senators could start going home once the treaty is resolved, dooming DADT repeal.” “By contrast, if the DADT repeal vote is done first, no Senator will leave Washington before START is resolved. So doing DADT repeal first doesn’t imperil START.”
But Reid and the White House seem more interested in passing START and at this point it doesn’t sound like Reid is on board with the Lieberman time frame. Here is how the Senate Majority Leader described the time frame in a press release issued yesterday: “We are very quickly running out of days in this Congress. The time for week-long negotiations on amendments and requests for days of debate is over. Republican Senators who favor repealing this discriminatory policy need to join with us now to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress”
At his press availability this afternoon, Reid seemed to dismiss Lieberman’s suggestion of holding a vote on DADT this weekend, saying, “I don’t know if I’ll bring it before Christmas.