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Reid Commits to DADT Vote

Reid Commits to DADT Vote


Representatives for Democratic majority leader Harry Reid and top White House officials committed to bringing "don't ask, don't tell" repeal to a vote as part of the National Defense Authorization Act before the end of the year at a meeting Wednesday evening with stakeholder groups.

"The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act -- the bill to which 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal is attached -- to the floor in the lame-duck session after the Thanksgiving recess," read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and the Center for American Progress, which all had a presence at the meeting.

The White House aides present at the negotiations included deputy chief of staff Jim Messina and director of legislative affairs Phil Schiliro as well as Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, and Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Majority leader Reid was represented by his chief of staff, David Krone, and his senior counsel, Serena Hoy.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had asked the majority leader to take up the bill after the Pentagon issues its report and following hearings he plans to hold on the matter, "which should take place during the first few days of December."

"I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that 'don't ask, don't tell' is repealed and the NDAA --- which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops --- is adopted," he said.

When Republicans mounted their successful filibuster against debating the NDAA in September, Sen. Reid planned to include a vote on attaching the DREAM Act, a measure that would provide undocumented students brought to the United States as minors with a path to citizenship through higher education or military service.

But this time around, Reid plans to offer the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill rather than as an amendment to the defense bill.

"Last time we sought to bring up [the DREAM Act], all Republicans blocked our effort, even though many have been supporters of the DREAM Act in the past," Reid said in a statement. "I hope that our Republican colleagues will join me, Sen. Durbin and Democrats in passing this important piece of legislation, now that we have a stand-alone version and that the political season is over."

Republicans had also objected to the amendment structure Reid set up for the September vote on the NDAA, complaining that they would not be given a fair shake at adding their own amendments once it reached the Senate floor for debate.

Some Democratic senators are now urging a more open amendment process for this vote.

"If the sticking point is that the Republicans want an opportunity to offer amendments and they feel like they weren't given that opportunity before the election, I have no problem with a more open amendment process," Colorado senator Mark Udall, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Advocate earlier this week.

Udall added that there might be less fear of amendments merely being used as political weapons now that the midterm election is over.

"There were concerns on both sides that there would be message amendments and amendments to make one party or the other look bad because the election was looming," he said. "It seems like we could move beyond that and we could really focus on policy debates."

But having a more open amendment process could be a squeeze given that most Hill staffers say it would likely eat up two weeks of debate. Reid had been targeting an adjournment date of Dec. 10, which would only leave two weeks after senators return from Thanksgiving.

Reid's pledge came on the heels of news Wednesday afternoon that President Barack Obama had called Sen. Levin to urge passage of the defense authorization bill before the end of the year.

"Today, President Obama called Chairman 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," said White House spokesman Shin Inouye.

Inouye added that White House aides have been conducting outreach over the past week to "dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue."

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that passing the defense authorization bill before the end of the year was still "a priority" for the president.

"The president believes that this can be done in a way and should be done, as you heard Secretary Gates and others say, in the next few weeks," Gibbs said. "We ought to bring up and we ought to put this -- 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 the policy that the courts are rapidly getting close to ending on a timetable that those in the bureaucracy might not find as much to their liking."

Gibbs's comments also echoed those of Defense secretary Robert Gates last week.

"The question is whether it is done by legislation that allows us to do it in a thoughtful and careful way, or whether it is struck down by the courts. Because recent court decisions are certainly pointing in that direction," Gates told ABC.

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