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Senators Conspire to Ditch DADT Repeal

November 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Last Wednesday, in his post midterms press conference, President Obama deflected a question about his promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by laying out a plan to get it done in the lame duck session. And on Sunday Secretary of Defense Robert Gates jumped out in front of the upcoming Pentagon review and urged Congress to get the repeal done before the end of the year. But despite these encouraging signs from the Administration, there’s a bipartisan agreement developing between the top senators in charge of military policy to abandon the repeal this year.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.

A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, who opposes the repeal, confirmed he is in talks with Mr. Levin on how to proceed on the defense bill but didn’t provide details.

As I reported recently, it’s likely that the votes would be there to pass the repeal in the lame duck session once the Pentagon review is released (it’s expected on Dec. 1): “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.”

Obviously, the chances of the Republican House and the shrunken Democratic Senate majority in the next session passing a repeal are slim to none. Will Obama put pressure on Levin to keep the repeal language in tact and get it done before the session ends, or will he sit back and watch this final nail be hammered into the coffin of his campaign promise to end DADT?

UPDATE: The White House opposes the Levin-McCain deal:

A top White House official issued a statement Monday evening saying the administration does not approve of any attempt to remove “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal from the Defense funding bill to which it is currently attached.

“The White House opposes any effort to strip ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications Director.

The big question remains: will Obama veto the Defense bill if it doesn’t contain the DADT repeal? We’ll update again if the answer to that becomes clear.

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