If the Senate is ready to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the House is ready to help. That’s the word that came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just hours after the Senate failed to achieve cloture on a defense spending bill containing a repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.
“An army of allies stands ready in the House to pass a standalone repeal of the discriminatory policy once the Senate acts,” Pelosi said in a statement to reporters.
Out of the smoldering embers of last night’s failed cloture vote in the Senate rose a legislative phoenix for repeal supporters in the form of a stand-alone repeal bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Majority Leader Harry Reid and others. The plan is a long shot — debate and passage of the bill would have to be squeezed into to the Senate’s already jam-packed lame luck legislative calendar — but it offers hope for supporters of repeal that the job can be done before the end of the year, as President Obama has urged.
Of course, a new bill passed by the Senate would also need to be passed by the House before it could reach the president’s desk for his assured signature. Pelosi said last night that she’s prepared to take up whatever the Senate sends her if it means ending DADT.
Under the rules of the House, where Democrats still have an overwhelming majority until Jan. 5, bringing the bill to the floor is much easier. The way the system works in the House could allow Pelosi to bring a Senate bill to the House floor and pass it in a matter of hours, making the pressure of the condensed legislative calendar much less of a factor there than it is in the Senate.
In her statement, Pelosi made it clear that she’s prepared to move a bill if she gets it.
“Since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has broad support among Senators, our troops, and the American people, it is my hope that that the Senate will move forward with an alternative legislative method,” she said. “The bipartisan proposal from Senators Lieberman and Collins provides renewed hope that progress is still possible in the Senate.”
Pelosi’s quick agreement to Lieberman’s standalone plan means that, yet again, the fate of DADT lies in the ability of Senators to come together and do something — which is not a common sight on Capitol Hill lately.