Lieberman: DADT Repeal Should Come Before START (VIDEO)

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) says that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should get an earlier slot on the Senate calendar than ratifying President Obama’s new nuclear arms reduction START treaty. In the past couple days, momentum has formed behind the Lieberman-led effort to end the military’s ban on openly gay servicembers, and Lieberman is calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the ball rolling.

“It’s really up to Sen. Reid now,” Lieberman told MSNBC today.

Lieberman recently secured the 60 votes (and then some) he’s going to need to bring the freestanding DADT repeal passed by the House to the Senate floor for a vote. Lieberman said that if the Senate brings up DADT this weekend, it can be done in time for other bills to be considered before the lame duck session is over and done with.

Regardless of what happens afterward, Lieberman said, repeal should come before anything else once the Senate debate on the budget bill — a prerequisite for some of the Republican pro-repeal votes — is over.“Instead of going back to the START treaty, we should go to the independent standalone repeal of DADT Saturday night, we can get it done by Monday, Tuesday morning at the latest, and then we can go back to the START treaty if they want,” Lieberman said. “But repealing DADT has to be done this year, because I’m worried we are not going to have the votes to do it next year.”

“The START treaty can be ratified next year,” Lieberman said.

A source close to Lieberman tells TPM the Senator may raise the proposed schedule during the Democratic caucus meeting scheduled for today.

Reid promised to bring a repeal bill to the floor at some point after the House passed its version yesterday, but his office has been tight-lipped about where on the priority list DADT falls. The clock is ticking on the lame duck, and with Reid interested in holding votes on START, the DREAM Act immigration bill, and DADT — all following the budget bill — it’s possible one could get the shaft before the Senate adjourns.

Yesterday, the Senate agreed to open debate on START. That debate will pause to give Senators a chance to vote on the budget bill this weekend. Instead of going back to START afterwards, Lieberman says the Senate should take up DADT repeal instead.

Lieberman reconfirmed to MSNBC that he’s got the votes to pass DADT repeal in the Senate, which would immediately put repeal legislation on the president’s desk for a likely signature. All he needs, Lieberman said, is time.

“I know we got 61, I believe we’re gonna suprise and at least 62, maybe 63 votes,” he said. “It’s time for this to end and for us to get the best possible people we can to serve in our military. We can’t let the clock be used as an excuse.”

Watch Lieberman make his case for putting DADT repeal first:

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