White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that passing “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal as part of the National Defense Authorization Act before the end of the year is "a priority" for President Barack Obama. But Gibbs added that the president has not reached out to any key senators on the matter.
“I don’t believe that the president has talked to Senator [Susan] Collins or Senator [Joe] Lieberman on this issue,” Gibbs said during a morning press gaggle. “The president believes that this can be done in a way, and it should be done as you heard Secretary Gates and others say, in the next few weeks. We ought to keep [repeal] in the defense authorization bill; we ought to pass this in the defense authorization bill. And we ought to end a policy that the courts are rapidly getting close to ending on a timetable that [some] might not find as much to their liking.”
UPDATE: White House spokesman Shin Inouye sent the following statement to reporters Wednesday afternoon:
"Today, President Obama called Chairman [Carl] Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck. The President’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue."
A transcript of the exchange with Gibbs is below:
The Advocate: Sen. Susan Collins joined Senator Lieberman in calling for early release of the Pentagon’s report on repeal. Has the president made any phone calls to Senator Collins or other swayable senators — does he plan to make any phone calls to those folks?
Robert Gibbs: I don’t know that the president has — I don’t believe that the president has talked to Senator Collins or Senator Lieberman on this issue. To my knowledge, the study has not come over here. Obviously, it’s being finished up by the Pentagon.
The president believes that this can be done in a way, and it should be done as you heard Secretary Gates and others say, in the next few weeks. We ought to keep this in the defense authorization bill; we ought to pass this in the defense authorization bill. And we ought to end a policy that the courts are rapidly getting close to ending on a timetable that those [inaudible] might not find as much to their liking.
Just today, you’ve that the START treaty is something you think will get done [during the lame-duck session], and you’ve said the [middle-class] tax cuts are something that you have to get done. What category would you put the defense authorization bill in?
I would put it in the same category. As I’ve said before, it’s a priority for the president to get it done before the end of the year.
Are you worried that Senator Reid wants to adjourn on December 10 — that leaves only two weeks after you get done with Thanksgiving.
I have not heard or seen [a target adjournment date].