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Frank Committee Vote Irrelevant To DADT


Rep. Barney Frank broke with the conventional wisdom of many Washington insiders Tuesday telling The Advocate that "don't ask, don't tell" repeal doesn't necessarily stand a better chance if it is incorporated in the budget recommendations sent from the Pentagon to Congress this spring.

"I do not think it matters what the Pentagon says," said Frank. "We will get the votes without it, I think."

Some strategists have suggested that repeal stands a better chance if the Defense Department includes the policy change in its budget recommendations, which would in turn make it more likely that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees would fold it into the fiscal year 2011 Defense authorization bill.

Frank countered, "People should not be worried about whether it's done in committee or not. That is a procedural detail that will have no effect on the final outcome."

Frank noted that a floor vote on repeal would take place either way -- whether or not the Armed Services Committees vote to incorporate an end to the policy in their FY 2011 Defense bill.

"If the committee puts it in, there will be a vote to knock it down. If the committee doesn't put it in, there will be a vote to add it. In both cases, I am confident that we will have the votes on the floor to pass it," he said of a vote in the House. "In fact, my recommendation would be if there's any difficulty, not to waste efforts trying to get it in committee, but to add it as an amendment on the floor."

Frank added that he didn't anticipate the leadership at the Department of Defense would oppose repeal in any way and that Congressional members would take their cues from President Barack Obama.

"The president will be strongly supporting repeal," he said. "The question is -- we have the president, I believe we have a majority in the House -- will we get 60 votes in the Senate?"

The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that members of Congress are being whipped -- counted -- for their support of including repeal in the DOD authorization bill.

Two separate sources -- a Democratic aide and a source with knowledge of the issue -- told The Advocate that the whip count was not happening at the leadership level but was instead being handled by Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, who is the lead sponsor of the bill in the House.

"Support for this is being gauged by the stand-alone bill," said the Democratic aide, not inclusion of repeal in the Defense funding bill.

But the aide broke with Frank in saying that repeal would have a better chance if it were included in committee.

"Any time people have to actively work to strip something out it requires more work to get over that hump," said the aide.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in his view the White House was still preoccupied with other issues besides ending the military's gay ban.

"More than one member of Congress has attempted to engage the highest-ranking advisers to the president on this subject," he said. "They have responded, talk to me after health care is off the floor of the senate."

Sarvis believes the White House is in the process this month of trying to figure out what its major policy initiatives will be for the year. "I think it's going to be narrow -- there's not going to be many," he said.

He added that he believed the administration was still on the fence about DADT.

"I think they're still looking at repeal, leaning toward doing it, but my own sense is that they haven't made up their minds yet," Sarvis said.

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