Lieberman Introduces DADT Repeal BillMarch 5, 2010 - by Eric Naing
Sen. Joe Lieberman [D, CT] on Wednesday introduced legislation (S.3065) that would halt the discharges of gay and lesbian service members and allow for the eventual repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” banning gays from serving openly in the military.
Lieberman’s Military Readiness Enhancement Act currently has the support of a handful of senators including Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI], chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The White House tapped Lieberman, who had opposed DADT since it became law in 1993, to take the lead on the repeal in Congress and this bill is a potential first step. One sticking point, however, is the timetable for the repeal.
The Defense Department is currently working on a study of how a repeal would work, which Defense Secretary Robert gates hopes will be released by December 1. The Pentagon reportedly doesn’t want Congress to act until after it is released.
Lieberman’s bill sidesteps this issue by delaying the repeal by several months even after it would be signed into law. The Advocate explains:
[T]he bill… allows the Pentagon approximately a year from February to perform its study, then another 60 days to issue new regulations and another 120 days for the individual service chiefs to issue their regulations.
However, discharges of gay and lesbian service members would be halted as soon as the president signs the bill.
Of course, a repeal measure would likely require 60 votes in the Senate to break a GOP filibuster and even Lieberman isn’t confident he can get a supermajority on his side.
This is why many repeal opponents, including Lieberman and Levin, are looking at inserting repeal language in the 2011 Defense Department authorization bill – similar to how hate crimes legislation passed through the 2010 defense bill (H.R.2647).
In that situation, the real fight may be in the Senate Armed Services Committee where the 60 vote dynamic would be reversed:
If Lieberman’s bill makes it into the committee’s version of the 2011 defense authorization bill, opponents would have to amass 60 votes to strip the amendment from the authorization — a virtual impossibility — instead of forcing Democrats to collect 60 votes for a standalone bill.
Sen. John McCain [R, AZ], the leading Republican on the committee, could lead the opposition to a repeal but the real threat may come from conservative Democrats on the committee like Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and Sen. Jim Webb [D, MA].