Servicemembers United’s Alex Nicholson — who attended Tuesday’s high-level meeting between President Obama and advocates of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — has laid out the group’s strategy for passing legislation to gradually repeal the policy during the lame duck session of the Senate. In a video published on YouTube, Nicholson stresses that advocates should lobby Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), President Obama, and moderate Republicans like Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME) and Richard Lugar (IN) to take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — in which the repeal amendment is housed — as soon as possible.
Given the time constraints and the tradition of Senate debate (senators will need about two weeks for floor debate and another two to conference the House and Senate versions of the bill), if the bill is not introduced before the Thanksgiving recess, Nicholson argues, “it’s possible in theory to still get it done, but the chances go down from 50 to 60% to 5 or 6%.”
His timeline looks something like this (calendar made by me):
Reid will be responsible for bringing up the NDAA during the lame duck session and should do so under open amendment rules. But the President also “has to get engaged in the process himself, personally and in a public way,” he adds. “The White House needs to do 3 or 4 times what it did in September or May. And the President has to be out there, making calls, doing press, sending his surrogates out, sending seniors, staff out, working Capitol Hill and actually showing that the White House has a serious stake in the Senate getting this done this year.”
One possible hiccup in the schedule is the Pentagon Working Group study, scheduled to come out on December 1st. Nicholson notes that a number of Senators — Brown, Voinovich, Lincoln, and Pryor — have argued that they preferred to wait for the results before voting on repeal but argues that “they need to realize that the final vote will take place way before the study is do on December 1.” “So they’ll have have ample of opportunity to see its conclusions and recommendations and make final decisions after it comes out,” he says.