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House Dems Take the Lead on Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

December 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

While Obama’s Bush tax cuts deal stews in the Senate, Democrats in the House are kickstarting a last-ditch effort to pass a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” before the lame duck session ends. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] and Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8] are introducing a stand-alone repeal bill today that will be identical in wording to the Senate’s stand-alone bill (S. 4023), and they plan on bringing it to a vote in the House Wednesday before they move on to the tax cuts.

The House has already shown that they have the votes to pass repeal legislation, having voted 234-294 on a similar amendment in the Spring. Barring any motion-to-recommit trickery, this should be a slam dunk.

It’s looking like the Senate is going to hold a debate on the New START Treaty after they finish the tax debate, so time is very tight in the upper chamber as senators are hoping to adjourn on Friday for the holidays and stay adjourned until the next session. But having the House take the first action on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal is going to put pressure on the Senate to act on this. The Senate will be looking at a bill they can send directly to Obama to become law, not at something they’ll have to send to the House where things could get tripped up and cause their effort to be wasted. Plus, after the Democrats complete their capitulation on the Bush tax cuts, they’ll probably be eager to pass something like this to placate their base.

The Washington Blade has more on the expected legislative maneuvering:

In a statement, [Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Director Aubrey] Sarvis said House leadership intends to have a vote on repeal in the House on Wednesday and to send the legislation to the Senate as a “privileged” bill.

Having the vote first in the House and sending the bill to the Senate as “privileged” legislation would allow the Senate would be able to take up the measure without having a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Still, the Senate would need 60 votes to proceed to final passage of the legislation.

“This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate,” Sarvis said. ”While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. Repeal supporters need to contact their House member to vote for repeal tomorrow.”

The Senate should have the votes. The stand-alone Lieberman-Collins bill that was introduced last week already has 41 co-sponsors and some Republican senators who voted against the Defense bill including the repeal language last week are warming to the idea of passing the repeal as a stand-alone bill. Still, this is going to be filibustered, probably by Sen. John McCain [R, AZ], so it’s going to take 60 votes to pass. That means the Democrats still need to flip one of the 39 Republicans who voted “no” last week, or Sen. Joe Manchin [D, WV], the only Democrat who voted “no.” Yesterday, Manchin claimed to support repeal, but said he hadn’t thought about it enough yet to vote “yes.”

UPDATE: Rep. John Larson [D, CT-1] told MSNBC today that Lieberman told him that there are more than 60 votes in the Senate to do this.

UPDATE 2: Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] announced on Twitter that they will vote on the bill tomorrow, adding that “Senate action on #DADT is long overdue.”

UPDATE 3: And, to top off the day, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] announced that if the Housepasses the repeal bill he will keep the Senate in session until they take a follow-up vote. More at Wonk Room.

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