Levin Gives DADT Repeal a Lifeline

BY Kerry Eleveld

May 14 2010 6:00 PM ET

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal advocates said Friday that a vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee remained possible even as the window dwindles to a matter of days and the White House remains on the sidelines.

“We are working toward and heading for votes within the House and Senate in the next few weeks, and that’s where our resources are focused,” said David Smith, vice president of programs for the Human Rights Campaign.

Advocates met last Friday with Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chair of
the Senate Armed Services Committee, and have had
ongoing conversations with other senators' staffs, including that of Joe
Lieberman of Connecticut, sponsor of the Senate’s repeal bill.

Levin
and Lieberman have been lobbying their Armed Services Committee colleagues member-to-member
on several repeal options in order to piece together the 15 votes that would
allow them to attach the measure in committee to the Department of
Defense authorization bill. The committee is scheduled to pound out final
language of the defense funding bill and vote on it during a closed-door
session the week of May 24.

A spokeswoman for Levin’s office
said the senator would attach repeal language if he drummed up enough
support in the committee.

“If he has the votes, he would support
moving forward with an amendment during the markup,” Tara Andringa said.
“He does not yet know what that would look like or where the votes
are.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of gay veterans group Servicemembers United, said because of the legislative options he was more optimistic about the chances for repeal than he had been in recent months.

“For the first time in a long time I think that we have a realistic, politically viable path to repeal right now,” he said. “It will depend on what kind of buy-in we get from key members on the committee and from the White House."

Despite Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging Congress not to vote on repeal this year, Levin has has continued to push forward with the effort. “The president says he wants to repeal ‘Don’t ask.’ Why shouldn’t we repeal it?” Levin told Congressional Quarterly earlier this week.

Though Gates’s objections have posed a challenge to swaying a handful of legislators on the committee, one person with knowledge of the matter said repeal supporters were on the verge of securing the final votes.

“We’re very close — within one or two votes — and we feel optimistic about that,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.















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