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DADT: What to Expect in the Lame Duck Session

Today, Congress reconvenes for the lame duck session, and boy, do the Democrats have a lot of turkey on their plate! By “turkey,” I mean bills they either a) were unable to pass because of Republican filibustering or b) didn’t even attempt to pass because they knew the Republicans would filibuster them.

The potential Congressional repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is one of the foremost issues making headlines right now. Here are a few highlights of the debate, plus speculation about what will ultimately become of DADT:

  • John McCain, Republican ranking member of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, led the charge in September to filibuster the defense spending bill that included DADT repeal language. He said he opposed repealing DADT until the Pentagon’s review of the policy is complete.
    • The DADT language in the defense bill states only that the policy will be repealed pending the Pentagon review, so it’s not like the instant the bill passes, all the GLBT people in the military start staging South Pacific and wearing sequined spandex to training (Note: this appears to be the Republican understanding of what it means to be gay).
    • My opinion: McCain took a stand to win points with hard-core conservatives. Now he can’t back down because he thinks it will make him look weak. Unfortunately, logic is out the window here.
  • On November 10, two anonymous sources leaked the results of the Pentagon study, which is not due to be finished until December 1, to The Washington Post. The leak revealed that 70% of military members who took a survey indicated they thought the effects of repealing DADT would be “positive, mixed or non-existent.”
    • The effects of the leak are mixed. While the findings bolster the case that repealing DADT would not harm military morale or readiness, they also cast a pall over the accuracy and integrity of the study.
    • Defense Secretary Gates has condemned the leak and even launched an investigation into who leaked what.
    • The leak no doubt contributed to McCain questioning the validity of the findings and insisting there was no time during the lame duck session to review DADT: “Once we get this study we need to have hearings and we need to examine it and”¦ see if it’s the kind of study we wanted.”
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates said November 6 that he wants to see DADT repealed. This bodes well, as Gates has a cache of respect built up with Republicans.
  • The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of GLBT GOP-ers, are suing the federal government to end DADT, as well as lobbying five un-named, moderate Republican Senators to vote for repeal. So far, the Supreme Court has denied their appeal to immediately end DADT, instead upholding the ban while it is being examined in California’s federal courts.

My prediction: An eternal optimist, I think DADT will be repealed by Congress in the lame duck session, before the Log Cabin Republicans’ suit is re-addressed by the Supreme Court (which wouldn’t be for at least another year).

Here’s why: For the time being, Dems hold a majority in both House and Senate. The defense bill originally passed the House by a 194-vote margin; replicating that victory should be no sweat. The Senate is trickier: Democrats should wait until after December 1 to vote there, so they can trot out the Pentagon study’s full findings, which should swing over the three votes they need to block another filibuster.

From a purely political standpoint, Harry Reid and other prominent Democrats can’t afford not to try to bring DADT to a vote. They are being intensely pressured by their liberal constituents to address the bill, and unless they’re keen on committing political suicide, they’ll do just that.

We at Persephone Mag will be keeping you updated on DADT as the historic decision continues to hang in the balance.

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