White House Lame-Duck Lineup
BY Kerry Eleveld
November 22 2010 5:05 PM ET
The White House is lining up its legislative priorities for the final weeks of the 111th Congress, making clear that passing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is chief among them along with addressing tax cuts and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” as part of the defense authorization bill.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stressed Monday that passing START was “a priority” for both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
“It has come up in conversations between staff here and [Majority Leader Harry Reid’s] staff, and conversations directly with the majority leader,” he said of START during the press briefing.
By contrast, Gibbs said he did not know of the president making any calls to the Senate on the tax cuts legislation. Last week the White House confirmed that President Obama had placed a phone call to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on passing the National Defense Authorization Act with “don’t ask, don’t tell” attached.
Gibbs added that the president would likely step up engagement of the leaders of the military’s respective service branches once the Pentagon’s working group study on repeal is released.
“I know the president has spoken previously with the [Defense] secretary and the service chiefs, and I expect that as this report is finalized in weeks that they will have an opportunity to speak directly with the chair of the [Joint Chiefs], the vice chair, and the service chiefs as this process moves forward,” he said in response to a question from the Washington Blade.
Earlier in the day, the Department of Defense announced the Pentagon study, which had been due out December 1, would instead be issued one day earlier.
“Secretary [Robert] Gates is pushing all involved in the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s report to have it ready for public release on November 30th in order to accommodate the desire of the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings as soon as possible,” DOD spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement first reported by Politico. “Frankly, December 1st was already an aggressive deadline by which to complete the report, incorporate the views of service secretaries and chiefs and for the Secretary to make a recommendation on the way ahead, but he has further compressed the timeline in order to support Congress’ wish to consider repeal before they adjourn.”
Gibbs said President Obama has yet to see the report and declined to comment on how it might affect the views of the service chiefs, all of whom have gone on record opposing repeal.
“I don’t want to presume whether, based on the results, that would change their opinion or not. I think it’s best not to get to far down the road on commenting on that,” Gibbs said.
But one service chief praised the study's comprehensiveness Sunday. The Navy's Adm. Gary Roughead told the National Journal it was "the most expansive survey of the American military that's ever been undertaken."
Senator Levin plans to schedule hearings on the report once it is released, though no date for the hearings has been set. But he welcomed news of the study’s early release.
“I’m pleased that Secretary Gates is accommodating the Senate’s consideration of the defense authorization bill by expediting release of the Defense Department’s report on repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy,” Levin said in a statement. “I believe our hearings on the report will be a boost to the goal of passing a National Defense Authorization Act, including provisions related to repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”’
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