Gibbs Bullish on DADT

By Kerry Eleveld

Originally published on Advocate.com December 17 2010 2:40 PM ET

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Friday sounded bullish on the prospects of passing a stand-alone “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill on Saturday, even as he tried to temper his enthusiasm during an off-camera press gaggle with reporters.

“I think it’s clear that there are enough votes to withstand a filibuster on repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Gibbs said, adding he would “not necessarily use the term ‘in the bag.’”

Gibbs said administration officials were indeed “cautiously optimistic” and that the president would be “working the phones” to help secure final votes.

“I can assure you that the president will spend some time over the course of the next several days making calls ahead of cloture and final passage,” he said. But Gibbs said the source of his confidence was not based on any specific communications with people like senators Scott Brown or Olympia Snowe but rather “the number of people” who have said they support the bill.

He added, “The president did speak with Senator [Harry] Reid yesterday.”

Gibbs also signaled optimism about ratifying the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before lawmakers leave town for the holidays.

Asked by The Advocate if repeal could help the White House mend relations with the greater progressive base, Gibbs said, "I think it’s clearly an important issue to the progressive base ... I think what’s probably as important as anything on this issue is, if you look at the support for repeal of DADT, it’s not just one party’s support for the repeal of it ... the repeal of the policy is something that enjoys broad support across the political spectrum.”

Several reporters wondered whether a successful vote on repeal would serve as an antidote to some of the Democrats’ compromises and even failures on other progressive issues. Sam Youngman of The Hill asked if passing repeal would “help the progressive left swallow the bitter pill that is the tax agreement.”

Gibbs: “Well, understand this: There are people that have been working for the repeal of this policy for almost 20 years ... So I would set this aside and understand the potential importance — and I say ‘potential’ because it’s got to pass, right? — the importance of fixing a policy that many have thought, including the president, was unjust. We have pursued changing this policy because it was the right thing to do not to assuage somebody who thought tactically we should have done something different on taxes.”

Asked to sum up the lame-duck wins from the White House perspective, Gibbs said, “I think you can see certainly the path for important victories in the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and in the ratification of the new START treaty. I think the agreement that the Senate and now the House have passed to protect middle-class rates was something that was enormously important to this president and something that, again, we knew had to be done before the end of the year.”