Fearful that delaying action on “don’t ask, don’t tell” until after the midterms could potentially kill the measure for the year, repeal advocates are pushing Senate majority leader Harry Reid to schedule a Senate floor vote on the defense funding bill in September.
“I’m a little anxious,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The reality is the number of legislative days in this Congress are rapidly dwindling, and we need to see that the defense authorization bill up on the Senate floor in September.”
When Congress returns to Washington next week, the Senate will have until October 8 when they leave for the midterms to take the crucial vote on the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the provision to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
But one political operative and repeal advocate noted the bill will be competing for attention with new legislation Democrats are pushing that would provide tax breaks for businesses.
“The Democrats are trying to figure out what they can effectively do in those four weeks to distinguish themselves from Republicans before the midterm elections,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The tax cut issue may provide that contrast.”
The source wagered that if the Senate floor vote does not take place before the midterms, the defense funding bill would have a “50-50” shot of passing before the end of this Congress. If it is not finalized by year’s end, the repeal effort will die.
Reid’s spokesman, reiterating statements he made last month, told The Advocate the defense authorization bill stood a chance of being addressed upon lawmakers’ return next week.
“It’s on the list of things we would like to do in the next few weeks,” said Jim Manley.
But it remains to be seen whether Republicans will continue to obstruct the bill and, if they do, whether Democrats have the grit to force the vote through, in which case they will have to produce 60 votes to end debate (reach “cloture”) in order to get the bill to the Senate floor, where it will require 51 votes to pass.