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Monday, November 15, 2010

Democrats DADT Dilemma

Harry Reid and his far left liberal Democratic allies have run smack up against a dilemma they may just not be able to get out of, including opposition from their own House party members as The Hill explains why the Defense Authorization Bill may have to pass without the DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) repeal being a part of it.

The need to shepherd the defense authorization bill through the Senate in the lame-duck session has left the Democratic leadership with a precarious dilemma.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may not be able to secure enough votes to pass the bill because of language repealing the ban on gays in the military. Stripping that provision may be the only way to pass the legislation, which authorizes funding and sets policy for the Pentagon.

And with a Republican majority in the House and diminished Democratic numbers in the Senate in the incoming Congress, the lame-duck session may be the last chance to repeal “don’t ask” before the 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest.

More complications:

....This year, several veteran lawmakers will likely also be fighting to protect their legacy: Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), a senior panel member, both of whom lost their reelection fights and both of whom oppose repeal.

Skelton, one of the chief architects of “Don’t ask” in 1993, brought the 2011 defense authorization bill to the House floor without repeal language. That was added to the bill during the debate.

In wanting to have a final bill without repeal, Skelton would find some strong allies among leading Republicans: McCain and Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.), the House Armed Services Committee ranking member. Of the Big Four — the chairmen and ranking members of the defense panels — only Levin favors repeal.

Informal deliberations between the House and Senate committees over the defense bill already broke down this week over the politics of repeal. But congressional sources said the committees may attempt to revive discussions next week.

Republicans have insisted that before a vote of DADT or any bill repealing it gets passed, the Pentagon’s study into the implications of repeal should be finished, presented and hearings on the findings be conducted.

Holding hearings during the busy and short lame-duck session could be tricky, but even if feasible such a move could doom repeal legislation for this Congress simply because of time and the necessary sequence of events. Repeal backers want an initial vote on "don't ask" in the first part of the lame-duck session, set for this week. However, many senators have indicated they want to hold off on voting on "don't ask" until the Pentagon study is back.

If McCain can hold off Senate floor action on the defense authorization bill which contains conditional repeal language not only until December 1 but until after hearings on the Pentagon report, that may well kill repeal for this year. If the Senate waits until after hearings to move on "don't ask," it would then need time to bring the defense bill to the floor, debate and vote on what could be a lengthy list of amendments, end debate, pass the bill, conference it with the House, and re-pass it in the Senate. Even if the Senate began work on the bill this week, that would be a tall order and if the body takes no action until, say, the second week in December, it becomes hard to see how passage could be accomplished in the face of continued resistance by McCain and others.

Proponents of DADT repeal and gay activists are keeping a close eye on this issue and are expressing their frustration of what they see as the last chance to repeal DADT for years to come.

There is some Republican support for DADT repeal but the bill should be voted for as a stand alone issue with amendments being allowed from both sides of the aisle.

The Defense Authorization Bill should not be held hostage simply for political gain for Democrats and Barack Obama.