The Advocate has learned that concurrent meetings took place Monday morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill that could help clear the way for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to be attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill later this week.
LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the staff of House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.
A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the White House meeting. "Our understanding is that Congress is determined to act this week and we are learning more about their proposal now," said the aide.
A Democratic leadership aide called the development "promising" but said
discussions were ongoing. The House Democratic leadership is expected to
meet to discuss the proposal later this afternoon.
According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would legislatively repeal the statute this year, but the current policy would remain in place and implementation of repeal would not occur until after the Pentagon’s working group study is finished in December. Further, completion of repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention, and other key factors affecting the military.
The language would not include a nondiscrimination policy but rather will return authority for open service by gays and lesbians to the Pentagon.
A Statement of Administration Policy is expected to be released this week, potentially as early as tomorrow.
One repeal advocate welcomed news of the agreement.
“Every single one of the groups around that table agreed that this is an amazing step forward,” said the advocate, who was close to the discussions at the White House and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The news came at the outset of a week that will be make or break for repeal, with critical votes scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday on the National Defense Authorization Act on the House floor and within the Senate Armed Services Committee. Murphy is expected to offer a repeal measure as an attachment to the NDAA on the House floor, and Levin has made no secret of the fact that he will move forward with an attachment in committee if he has the votes.
Murphy has long said he has the 217 votes necessary to pass repeal in the House, and Hill insiders have said for weeks that Levin is one or two votes away from the 15 needed to attach the measure in committee.