Add Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to the list of Democrats who say the Senate should stay open long enough to give Republicans the time they require to bring the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers to an end. Asked by TPM yesterday if he supported Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) call for the Senate to keep the lame duck session going past the scheduled break if necessary to get repeal passed, Levin’s office confirmed his endorsement of the idea.
Levin’s the chair of the Armed Services Committee, and a powerful backer of repeal. But he’s just the latest Democrat to say he’ll work through Christmas if it means bringing the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers to an end. Yesterday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) signed on via her Twitter feed.
A Democratic leadership aide tells TPM that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is working behind the scenes to get Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed this year, but didn’t commit to keeping Senators in town longer than planned to get it done. In order to keep the doors open longer than scheduled, Reid would need the vote of the entire Democratic caucus
“Senator Reid is focused right now on working out an amendment strategy that will get the necessary 60 votes to pass a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the aide said. “This is a law he thinks should be addressed once and for all this Congress, before we adjourn for the holidays.”
Extended debate time and an open amendment process are the requirements Republican Senators like Susan Collins (ME) say need to be met before they’ll vote for cloture on the defense authorization bill which includes the DADT repeal language.
Staying late through the Christmas break to hold a vote on controversial legislation wouldn’t be new for this Congress, of course. Last year, Senators stayed on Capitol Hill through Christmas Eve to get final passage of the landmark health care reform law.
But Democrats have a lot on their plate for the lame duck, not the least of which is a final legislative solution to the Bush tax cuts and President Obama’s nuclear arms treaty.
And, as the leadership aide suggested, working through Christmas is not necessarily the answer on DADT. Republicans seem intent on dragging out the debate regardless, and those who may favor extending the ban require allowing an unspecified number of amendments to the defense bill to get a chance on the floor. Democratic leaders need to work out that process before they figure out how long the debate will take.