The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky reports the news that “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) will introduce a stand-alone ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell"] repeal bill that he will co-sponsor and bring to the House floor in short order.”
The bill is identical to S. 4023 — the standalone DADT repeal bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) — which, if passed without amendment, would prevent the need for a conference committee to sort out the differences between the two bills in the lame-duck session.
A spokeswoman from Murphy’s office would only say that Hoyer was addressing the issue currently and that Murphy’s office would commenting shortly.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said in a statement, “The swift introduction of an identical repeal bill in the House shows that continued efforts to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year are still very much alive and the process is moving forward.”
Murphy — the lead on DADT repeal in the House this past year — is in his final days in Congress, having lost re-election to former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in November. Despite the loss, Murphy is pushing forward on the signature issue that led to his strong support from the LGBT community.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement, “We applaud House Speaker Pelosi, Reps. Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session.”
Sarvis went on, though, with a caution, saying, “Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate. This ‘privileged House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate. While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk.”
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in a statement, “With the leadership of Rep. Murphy and Leader Hoyer, support for DADT repeal in Congress is at an all-time high. It is up to Congress to act this year to send this failed and discriminatory law to the dustbin of history.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously issued a statement saying that “an army of allies stands ready in the House to pass a standalone repeal of the discriminatory policy once the Senate acts.” Now, however, it appears that the House will be moving first, a possibility previewed on Monday night by Politico’s Josh Gerstein.
The late-breaking action in the lame-duck session comes on the heel’s of the Senate’s failure to proceed to debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which had — in the version passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House — contained the DADT repeal language that is now being introduced as a standalone bill.
[UPDATE: Of the standalone DADT repeal bill being introduced today in the House, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told Metro Weekly, “There would be no point doing this if there wasn’t a real chance to get this done in the Senate.”
Saying that the effort unveiled by Hoyer today happened only in conjunction with “conversations with the Senate,” Frank said that a “number of Republicans have hidden behind procedure on this” — but that “[t]hose [issues] appear to be getting resolved.
Saying that he was confident in the House’s ability to pass the standalone repeal bill, he added of the Senate chances for passage, “I’d say there’s a better than even chance.”]
[UPDATE @ 12:15 PM: Clarke Cooper, the executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, issued the following statement, "The path to success is clear."
He went on to explain, in LCR's view, what is known and unknown at this time.
"We know that we have the votes to ensure bipartisan repeal. We know that our military is ready and able to implement open service, and that both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have asked Congress to act," he said. "What we don't know is whether there is sufficient will among the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to make repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' a priority."]