Activists Worry Congress Could Drop The Ball On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

While many LGBT advocates did not support the compromise amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, after the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee attached the measure to this year’s Defense Authorization Bill, most assumed that the policy was on its way out. The argument mostly centered around how long it would take. But now, several publications are reporting that Senate Democrats — in search of an election issue to distinguish themselves from the Republicans ahead of the midterm elections — may not be so keen on addressing the issue before they leave town on October 8. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) keeps assuring advocates that the authorization measure is “on the list of things we would like to do”, but some are growing weary. Here is the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld:

“I’m a little anxious,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The reality is the number of legislative days in this Congress are rapidly dwindling, and we need to see that the defense authorization bill up on the Senate floor in September.” […]

The source wagered that if the Senate floor vote does not take place before the midterms, the defense funding bill would have a “50–50” shot of passing before the end of this Congress. If it is not finalized by year’s end, the repeal effort will die….But it remains to be seen whether Republicans will continue to obstruct the bill and, if they do, whether Democrats have the grit to force the vote through, in which case they will have to produce 60 votes to end debate (reach “cloture”) in order to get the bill to the Senate floor, where it will require 51 votes to pass. Prior to the August recess, Manley said, the majority leader tried to reach an agreement with Republicans to move forward with a vote on the legislation, but Sen. John McCain of Arizona — who was fending off a primary challenge from hard-core conservative J.D. Hayworth — thwarted the effort.

By all accounts, the White House and Reid are still on board with bringing the measure to a vote during the latter half of September and many believe, as Eleveld reported, that these efforts may now face less opposition from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who before being challenged by Hayworth had said that he would consider repealing the ban if military commanders like Gen. David Petraeus suggested that it was no longer necessary. Groups like HRC, SLDN, and Servicemembers United are lobbying members to take up the bill, but since the military received funds through appropriations, the authorization measure may not be considered a must-pass piece of legislation. For instance, even though Congress has successfully passed a DAB in the past 45 years, it almost rarely secures the passage of the State Department’s authorization.


LGBT lobbying of Congress is not merely constrained to DADT, however. Last night, activists with the group GetEQUAL interrupted Rep. George Miller’s (D-CA) debate against his Republican opponent Rick Tubbs, to pressure the Congressman to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). That measure has languished in Miller’s House Education and Labor committee. In March, Miller had promised to move ENDA “[r]ight after healthcare,” but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has since said that she wouldn’t bring the measure to the floor until DADT is repealed.


AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay points to this item in Politico’s Morning Defense:

WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY? — The chances that the Senate will take up the National Defense Authorization Act before the next recess are declining by the minute; “contingency planning” is now the operative phrase. Defense industry and lobbying sources are scrambling to prepare for any number of possible courses of action that are dependent on congressional leadership, and, to some extent, election poll results.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS? — One Senate staffer’s bet: “Seventy percent is pretty good odds for the Senate to do anything, the staffer tells Morning Defense.