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If Dems Want DADT Repealed, They Have to Do It In the Lame Duck

October 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

On Wednesday, the Obama Administration asked for an immediate suspension of a recent federal court ruling that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, is unconstitutional on its face and should no longer be enforced. The appeals court wasted no time in satisfying the administration’s request and issuing an order to stay the ruling and put DADT back into effect. Obama maintains that he supports repealing DADT, but that he wants it done in a more orderly fashion. The Administration has commissioned the Defense Department to put together a study on how the repeal would work, which is expected to be released on December 1st. Both Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates want the repeal to be ordered by Congress with time for regulations and precautions put into place.

But here’s the problem. If the pollsters are right, the Democrats won’t have the votes to pass a DADT repeal in the next session of Congress. That means if they want the repeal done before 2013 at the earliest, they’ll have to do it after the report is issued on December 1, but before they adjourn for the year. Given everything else on their plate, that’s not much time.

When Congress tried to pass a DADT repeal in September, they fell 3 votes short. But at least four of the senators voting “no” issued statements indicating they were open to repealing DADT after the report is issued. It appears that the votes will be there, but the question is if, realistically, there is enough time to get this done.

Since 1990, when Congress has held lame-duck sessions, the latest date the Senate has stayed in session is December 11th. No matter how Congress approaches the DADT issue — as a provision in a Defense bill, in an omnibus bill, or as a stand-alone bill — both chambers will have to pass it. The Democrats are looking at 20 bills for consideration in the lame duck session, and some of them are very important and likely very time consuming. For example, if they don’t get an unemployment benefits extension done, 8 million or so long-term unemployed workers will lose their payments and be left without a lifeline. In recent history, it’s taken them up to 6 weeks just to pass similar unemployment legislation.

Congress comes back on November 15th and leaves again for Thanksgiving break on November 19th. They’ll most likely come back in December for some period of time, but even that isn’t for sure. After the beating the Democrats are expected to take in the midterms, they might be a little shell-shocked and ready to just adjourn for the holiday season to get their heads straight. As in most things in Congress, the enemy of the DADT repeal is time. If Obama and the Democrats want to get this done any time soon, they’ll have to bunker down and get motivated, because there’s going to be a lot of pressure to do a lot of other stuff, and nobody’s actually going to feel like doing anything but go home and sleep.

Pictured above is Lady Gaga speaking a rally in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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