View From Washington: The DADT Deal



Now we know what we get when we try to drag people across the finish line. The White House and the Pentagon apparently had no interest in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” this year even as Congressman Patrick Murphy and senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman soldiered on with the mission.

Don’t take my word for it. Witness their statements.

From the Defense Department: "Secretary [Robert] Gates continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law. With Congress having indicated that is not possible, the Secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."

Over at the White House, Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag joined Gates in saying that “ideally” the Pentagon’s study would be completed prior to a vote. But since “Congress has chosen to move forward with legislation now,” Orszag conceded the proposed amendment “meets the concerns” that have been voiced by Defense secretary Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Translation: This wasn’t our idea, but all right, do what you need to do.

Hardly an endorsement and certainly not enough to make GOP senator Scott Brown or even Democratic senator Jim Webb comfortable enough to vote for the repeal attachment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Both said Tuesday they would not vote for the measure.

Brown was one of the top three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee whom repeal advocates considered swayable. No more. The other two were senators Bill Nelson and Evan Bayh — both of whom signaled their support for repeal Tuesday. But repeal advocates already had them in a “soft yes” category, meaning they are now saying publicly what they had already been saying privately. (Senators Robert Byrd and Ben Nelson are the only holdouts on the new deal, though Nelson has said in the past he would vote against repeal.)

The word on the Hill is that, as of last weekend (i.e. before the new compromise), Levin had 14 of the 15 votes needed to pass a repeal measure in his committee. And with the potential abstention of one senator, 14 would have been enough. (That count continues to stand at 14 as of 7 p.m. Eastern Tuesday. UPDATE: The vote is now 15, based on senator Ben Nelson's support for the measure announced Wednesday.)

Discussions around what that repeal measure would include were ongoing as Levin continued to lobby his colleagues. But a couple concessions designed to pacify Gates were being considered: allowing the Pentagon to complete its study before implementation proceeded and potentially requiring a stamp of approval (e.g. a certification letter) from military leadership and/or the president.

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