Two More Weeks

Greg Sargent reports on the latest maneuvering to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

The announcement this morning that House Dems will vote on their own stand alone bill to repeal don’t ask don’t tell catapults the ball back into Harry Reid’s court. If repeal is going to have any chance, the Senate Majority Leader needs to indicate right now that the Senate will definitely vote on the stand-alone bill after the House sends it over.

Senate aides involved in the discussions want Reid to make it clear that this vote is a certainty before the end of the lame duck session, not just something on the wish list. They want the White House to urge Reid to commit. They point out that repeal got a major reprieve today, when the House agreed to introduce its own bill — and they want Reid and the White House to capitalize on this momentum.

There are three big things on the liberal wish list for the remainder of the lame duck session: DADT, New START, and the DREAM Act. I might be wrong about this, but I suspect there’s only time for one of them to pass. That being the case, my vote is very strongly in favor of repealing DADT.

There are a few reasons for this. First, if DADT fails now, it’s dead for a very long time. With 47 Republicans in the next session of Congress, and probably about the same number for several years to come, there’s simply no chance of passing it after the end of the year. It’s now or never.

Second, it has the votes to pass. I don’t think DREAM does. What’s more, to put it bluntly, if I have to choose, I’ll choose to expand the civil liberties of fellow American citizens before I’ll choose to expand the educational opportunities of immigrants. I know that’s a nasty choice, and I’ll take both pieces of legislation if I can get them, but I don’t think I can.

Finally, when all’s said and done, I think New START probably can pass in the next session of Congress. Maybe I’m dreaming here, but New START simply doesn’t push Republican hot buttons the same way DADT and DREAM do. Given the enormous support for New START among Republican foreign policy experts, I think it’s possible to round up 15 or 20 Republican votes for it next year.

The opposing argument, I suppose, is that DADT is likely to be overturned by the courts even if it fails in Congress. But I’m not so sure about that. A district court might overturn it, and the right circuit court might concur, but I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Supreme Court will agree. We have two weeks left to get DADT repealed, and I very much doubt we’ll have a second bite at the apple from any branch of the government if we fail.

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