Will The Senate Have Time To Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

December 16, 2010 5:11 a.m.

If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is going to be repealed by Congress this year, it will be because the Senate found the time to do it. That’s what the long battle to end the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers has come down to: a Republican Senator, and the number of days before Christmas.

Unfortunately for proponents of repeal, how those two factors play out is very much an open question.

Yesterday, the House passed a standalone DADT repeal bill — the second repeal legislation to leave the House this year. The bill means that the House is well and truly done with DADT repeal. A bipartisan coalition of 250 House members weighed in and voted yes on repeal yesterday, sending the action to the Senate once and for all.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.No one is really willing to say with certainty if there will be time for the Senate to consider the DADT repeal before the 111th Congress adjourns for good. With a Republican-controlled House and an increased Republican minority in the Senate coming in January, most say that failing to pass DADT now will mean the law stays in place for months if not years into the future.

The votes are there, according to Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the leading sponsors of a standalone repeal bill in the Senate. Lieberman has said over and over that he has the 60 votes necessary to secure cloture and final passage of the repeal, and with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) coming on board last night, it appears he may be right. Sixty Senators have not publicly committed to this bill yet, but Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have said they’re in favor of repealing the DADT ban, suggesting that Lieberman has the votes he needs, though no one is really sure.

As for timing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that’s in the hands of the Republicans. In a strongly-worded statement released last night after the standalone vote, Reid expressed strong support for the standalone repeal measure (he’s a co-sponsor) but also said that with Republicans threatening scheduling shenanigans to focus public attention on spending bills, he just can’t be sure if there will be time for the Senate to take up DADT repeal again.

“We are very quickly running out of days in this Congress. The time for week-long negotiations on amendments and requests for days of debate is over,” Reid said, referring to the protracted negotiations with Collins before the failed cloture vote on the defense authorization bill last week, which was the first time the Senate took up DADT repeal.

“Republican Senators who favor repealing this discriminatory policy need to join with us now to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress,” Reid said.

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