This morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) announced what was reported as a possibility on Tuesday night — that a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision aimed at repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is likely this evening.
[UPDATE: White House spokesman Shin Inouye tells Metro Weekly, “The President has been reaching out to Senators from both sides of the aisle to reiterate his desire to see Congress pass the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, during the lame duck.”]
One advocate, however, already this morning is throwing out a warning to Reid. Servicemembers United’s Alex Nicholson said Reid must be reasonable with the NDAA amendment process or “he will be intentionally throwing the vote.”
Robert Raben, a former Clinton Justice Department official who now runs a lobbying firm, was incredulous. He told Metro Weekly, “In what fictional universe is moving forward as those of us who want to lift the ban have insisted upon to be greeted with anything but ‘at last, thank you’?”
Because the vote to proceed to debating the NDAA failed in September, Reid voted against it for procedural purposes so that he later could bring the bill back as a motion to reconsider. He said this morning that he is on the path to doing so tonight.
On the floor today, Reid said, “I’m likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the defense authorization act this evening. Allowing, as I will indicate at that time, time for amendments to that piece of legislation.”
Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement this morning, “Reid is actively reaching out to his Republican colleagues to reach an agreement on how to proceed. We also know from Hill sources the President is actively working today’s vote with key Republican senators. Today the Senate has an opportunity to make the nation’s defense funding and our service members a higher priority than tax cuts for millionaires.”
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, was more cautious. “If Senator Reid is planning to bring up the vote on the defense bill today, we certainly hope that he has confirmed that our Republican votes are ready to proceed based on the tax cut deal,” he said. “We have not yet received confirmation on that one way or the other.”
The Palm Center’s deputy executive director, Christopher Neff, stressed in a statement the importance of presidential leadership.
“This has been a roller-coaster year for the debate over gays in the military,” Neff said. “The President set a course for repeal during his State of the Union address and this Senate vote may be the steepest hurdle of this 17-year fight. This is the President’s vote and his leadership can make the difference today.”
It is not clear at this time whether Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) or Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will vote for the reconsideration. Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement that “[t]here is strong bipartisan support for passing the National Defense Authorization Act and ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ if Republicans are given a fair say in the final version of the defense bill.”
The National Journal, however, reports: “That bill appears likely to be successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans, however, several congressional aides said. GOP moderates have insisted on an open amendment process, which Reid appears unlikely to grant. Defeat of the bill could open the door to move a ‘stripped down,’ version of the measure without the repeal of the law on gays in the military, said one source familiar with talks on the bill.”
Of those issues, Nicholson told Metro Weekly, “If Senator Reid has received confirmation that Republican supporters of repeal are satisfied with the tax cuts deal, then the issue becomes the number of amendments and amount of floor time that Senator Reid is offering on the bill. As of this morning, it is our understanding that he is still lowballing his offer and presumably hoping that we will just blame ‘the Republicans.’ If he does not move his offer into the realm of reasonableness, then he will be intentionally throwing the vote when he brings it up.”
Raben, however, shot back. “People should spend more time getting us over the finish line, and less questioning the motives of our very few champions,” he told Metro Weekly.
In addition to the amendment process, questions remain about whether Republicans will vote to proceed on any legislation other than tax cuts. Despite the White House deal on them, the Senate has not yet voted on the package and all 42 Republicans told Reid they would not proceed on any legislation until the tax-cut issue was resolved.
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