Where Does DADT Repeal Go From Here?

When we last checked in with the legislative effort to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers, Senate supporters of repeal had been stymied by a failed cloture vote on the defense spending bill that included repeal language. A last-ditch effort to save repeal emerged in the form of a standalone repeal bill separate from the defense bill, which proponents say has attracted 40 sponsors so far.

There are three obstacles facing that bill: first, it has to attract enough supporters to move on the Senate floor (that magic 60 votes); second, room has to be found for the bill the crowded lame duck calendar; and third, the House must be able to pass it’s own version of the repeal, and do it quickly.

Reports Monday and sources on the Hill report that the standalone bill is making progress on all fronts.First, the Senate support: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — the only Republican to vote for cloture on the defense bill — are the key players behind the standalone bill. Lieberman’s office told TPM that momentum for the bill is building in the Senate.

“The already large and growing number of Senators who are quickly signing on to the Lieberman-Collins bill shows the high level of continuing commitment to repealing DADT before Congress goes home this year,” Lieberman spokesperson Erika Masonhall said.

How to get the bill moving in the Senate seems to be the sticking point. Assuming legislation to deal with the Bush tax cuts — which will move to a final vote in the Senate today after yesterday’s cloture vote — gets through Congress without too much of a hitch, finding room in the tight lame duck calendar still takes work. The Senate hopes to find room to debate and pass the START treaty — no easy task — as well as the DADT repeal. Also, they want to go home for Christmas break.

The National Review reported Monday that “a senior Senate aide” said that a repeal vote will “definitely” come before the end of the lame duck session.

A pair of sources close to the work on the bill were not as definitive in their predictions to TPM. “Discussions are ongoing about several legislative options,” one source said.

A leadership aide told TPM that “we don’t have a specified time” for DADT repeal, “and a number of bills, at this point.”

Of course, there’s still the House bill with which to contend. On Monday, ThinkProgress reported that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) will offer their own version of a standalone repeal bill in the House. A House leadership source declined to confirm the story, and it was taken down from ThinkProgress’ website shortly after it posted. Politico reports the story was “published prematurely.”

If true, the story would represent an important final step toward getting DADT repealed before the Republicans take over in January.

Update: This morning, Hoyer and Murphy confirmed the House bill is real, and will be put forward today.

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