House Democrats Introduce Standalone DADT Repeal

Posted on 14 December 2010

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By Dave Dayen

It’s pretty late in the session, but House Democrats have introduced a bill that would repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and could vote on it as soon as this week.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) — a long-time supporter of repeal — will introduce the legislation, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced at his daily press briefing and on Twitter. Hoyer also said he would co-sponsor the bill.

The move mirrors an attempt in the Senate to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy via a stand-alone bill after the upper chamber failed to advance the defense authorization bill that contained repeal language.

The thinking goes that a bill that passes through the House would put pressure on the Senate. I see no evidence of that, and I can point to about 400 House bills languishing in the Senate as proof. The only positive is that it’s extremely likely the House will go out of session at the end of the week and jam the Senate, so getting the standalone bill passed there is probably more vital at this point.

Of course, for passage in the Senate, you have to find the votes. With Susan Collins supporting and Joe Manchin opposing, there appear to be 58 votes for passage. 40 have already signed on as co-sponsors. The remainder would have to be picked up among members like Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and Richard Lugar, all of whom have expressed varying degrees of support for repealing the policy, but have not committed to this vote. Lugar has come the closest, saying that he would lean toward support:

Now, with the stand-alone repeal measure reaching 40 co-sponsors in the Senate, Lugar’s office has confirmed to me that the Senator is “sympathetic” to the new DADT repeal legislation and may be willing to vote for the measure if it is brought up under a “fair” process and voted on after START.

Lugar first announced his qualified endorsement Sunday night, after a speech at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana, in response to a student’s question about the policy. This afternoon, Lugar spokesperson Mark Helmke reiterated that the Senator’s vote would still depend on how the measure is brought up. Helmke also said that Lugar was willing to stay past Christmas to end the policy before the end of the year.

I don’t think there’s any question that passing new START first is the priority, particularly among the White House. Harry Reid may bring that up right after the tax bill passes. The strategy would be to bring up new START from the executive calendar, then pass an omnibus spending bill or a continuing resolution to fund the government, and then go back to new START. It’s unclear if this will even work, and even if it does, that just doesn’t leave a lot of time in the session for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But Lugar, at least, is hinting at keeping the session open longer to get it done.

Nobody’s really saying if time will be made on the Senate calendar for the standalone bill. But House passage got a bit closer yesterday.


Dayen is a writer, comedian and TV/film editor. He is an elected member of the Democratic State Central Committee from the 41st Assembly District. He blogs on state and national politics at