Last Minute Push for ‘Don’t Ask’: Too Little, Too Late?
Update: The House passed a stand-alone "don't ask, don't tell" repeal this afternoon in a 250-to-175 vote.
The House of Representatives might take up a vote today on a stand-alone bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), the 1993 law prohibiting open military service by gay and lesbian Americans.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is co-sponsoring the legislation in the House and will lead debate of the bill on the floor.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said this morning in an action alert to supporters that a strong vote in the House would be important to Senate passage. He encouraged supporters to call their House representatives in advance of the pending floor debate and vote.
Last week, a Senate vote on DADT repeal attached to a defense spending authorization bill failed 57 to 40 and many aren’t optimistic that a stand-alone bill put forth by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will fare much better.
LGBT activist and political consultant Jim Neal, who ran unsuccessfully in North Carolina’s 2008 Democratic Senate primary, has said a move to repeal DADT was “doomed” from the start. In a guest posting Sunday at the popular LGBT blog PamsHouseBlend.org, Neal delved into the details of the vote, mainly that some Republican legislators might have voted yes if other Democrats had been present to vote. Neil argues Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was simply trying to “clear the calendar” for more important bills.
“[Reid] wanted to clear the docket and get DADT out of the way. Other legislation in the pipeline takes priority, namely the tax cut bill and ratification of the START Treaty,” Neal writes. “Any hope of repealing DADT under a prospective Lieberman bill will require very tight coordination and communication between Senators Collins, Lieberman and their caucuses. Clearly there will have to be ample time allotted for GOP Senators to excoriate the legislation. However, this bill has no future if the Senate does not stay in session beyond December 17th as is currently planned.”
Sounds like political games to me – games meant to say, “Hey, look at us. We tried so hard,” when LGBT and allied community members come knocking on elected officials’ doors demanding a reason why DADT repeal might very well be pushed off for years.
Perhaps the simple truth of the matter is that Senate leadership simply waited too long to address DADT. The House, after all, was ready and willing to go on repeal and passed such a measure way back in May. Senate leaders, on the other hand, capitulated to demands that a vote on the matter wait until the Pentagon’s review on repeal implementation was completed this month, even as insiders, unnamed sources and advocates pointed to leaked data showing the study would prove repeal harmless.
There’s certainly a lesson for students in all this mess: Procrastination never results in a positive outcome.
Matt Comer is a staff writer for Campus Progress.