October 26, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Gibbs unaware of outreach to change Senate ‘Don’t Ask’ votes

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday he’s unaware of any outreach the president has done in the Senate to advance “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. But he touted an upcoming meeting with LGBT advocates as evidence of the president’s desire to end the military’s gay ban.

Asked by the Washington Blade whether the president has made any outreach attempts to encourage senators who voted “no” on moving forward with repeal to vote “yes” a second time around, Gibbs replied that no such outreach has taken place to his knowledge.

Still, Gibbs acknowledged that the only way the Senate could move forward with the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill — to which repeal language is attached — is to change some of those votes.

“To my knowledge, it hasn’t taken place yet, but, look, the only way we’re going to get something through the Senate is to change the vote count,” Gibbs said.

The White House spokesperson noted there is “a promised filibuster” in moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the lame duck session. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pledged to renew his objection to moving forward with the bill should it come up again this year.

“You’re going to have to get past a promised filibuster in moving to the bill,” Gibbs said. “And certainly, the only way we can move to that bill is to change some of those votes.”

Sources have told the Blade that a meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday between White House officials and repeal advocates. Gibbs said he expects the officials in attendance will express the same commitments that he has made regarding the president’s pledge to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“The president wants the defense authorization act and that repeal passed,” Gibbs said. “That is the basis for the meeting today and I think the president and the administration have committed to working to see that through.”

The White House press secretary also addressed a recently leaked e-mail stating that any discussion of pending litigation on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would prompt administration officials to terminate the meeting. Gibbs noted some participants in the lawsuit are plaintiffs in Log Cabin v. United States.

“I don’t think either side believes that those type of conversations about the litigation between two parties represented in a lawsuit is appropriate,” Gibbs said.

Asked about any contingency plan for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the event the Senate is unable to pass repeal, such as issuing a stop-loss order, Gibbs replied that the White House is “focused on an endurable repeal of a law that the president thinks is unjust.”

Gibbs also said he couldn’t immediately say whether the White House or repeal advocates initiated the meeting.

Additionally, Gibbs added it is the “hope” of the White House that Congress can still pass “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal regardless of what happens on Election Day. Pundits expect Democrats to sustain to heavy losses and lose control of the House.

“We’re approaching the beginning of December, which is when the Pentagon’s study of implementation and of the attitudes of the military will be complete,” Gibbs said. “The president believes — continues to believe that this is a law that — the end of this law — the time for the end of this law has come.”

Both the Blade and The Advocate questioned Gibbs on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the news conference. A transcript of the exchange follows:

Blade: Robert, on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I understand a meeting is taking place today with — between the White House and repeal advocates. What commitments is the White House going to be offering during this meeting in the effort to repeal the law?

Gibbs: Well, the same — likely the same commitments that I have enumerated in here, and that is our desire to see the defense authorization bill pending before the Senate taken up. That includes a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the House has already voted on. The president wants the defense authorization act and that repeal passed. That is the basis for the meeting today and I think the president and the administration have committed to working to see that through.

Blade: I want to follow up on that. Is among the commitments — is among the commitments reaching out to senators who may have voted “no” in September to get them to change their votes to vote “yes” in lame duck. Has that taken place yet?

Gibbs: No, to my know — to my knowledge, it hasn’t taken place yet, but, look, the only way we’re going to get something through the Senate is to change the vote count and to move past — look, you’ve got to get — you’re going to have to get past a promised filibuster in moving to the bill. And certainly, the only way we can move to that bill is to change some of those votes.

Blade: It’s been reported that any discussion of litigation on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during this meeting would terminate the discussion. Why is that?

Gibbs: …Again, understand that some of the participants in the meeting are with groups that are in litigation as a plaintiff where the United States government is the defendant. I don’t think either side believes that those type of conversations about the litigation between two parties represented in a lawsuit is appropriate.

Blade: Who initiated the meeting? You or them?

Gibbs: I don’t know the answer to that at this point.

Blade: Just one last question: is the president … expecting repeal legislation on his desk by the end of this year regardless of what happens at the polls next week?

Gibbs: That’s our hope. Again, our desire and our hope and the president’s commitment is that he will work to see this past. This is — look, we’re approaching the beginning of December, which is when the Pentagon’s study of implementation and of the attitudes of the military will be complete, and the president believes – continues to believe that this is a law that — the end of this law – the time for the end of this law has come.

The courts are signaling that, and certainly it’s been his political belief going back when I met him in 2004 — that was his position.

Advocate: Any sense of what that report looks like? Has anyone in the White House had a chance to see some of the [pre-runs] of that — the DOD report?

Gibbs: Not to my knowledge. The last time I was — I heard about this and nobody in his building had seen that.

Advocate: In terms of contingency planning, I know this is your favorite subject, but, look, there’s a very real possibility this doesn’t go through. I know you guys want it to. I know that’s the meeting today, but if it doesn’t go through, is something like stop-loss on the table? [It’s] perfectly within the president’s authority, by the way, in a time of war.

Gibbs: I think that, look, you’ve seen steps that have been taken over the past several days at the Pentagon involving service secretaries, you have a sitting chair of the Joint Chiefs who believes it’s time for this law to end [and] the president working closely with the secretary to make that happen. Our efforts in the short term will be focused on an endurable repeal of a law that the president thinks is unjust — and that’s where our focus will be.

Watch the video of the exchange here:

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

4 Comments
  • WH statements ring more hollowly every time they are repeated.

  • I’m shocked, shocked to find that such brazen bullshitting is going on in here.

  • Obama is one and done. Lies, empty promises and hurling us under the bus at every opportunity. Spineless wishy washy worthless POS. What a crock of shit he sold us.

  • Yes, we will punish the dems for moving us forward but not as far and fast as we want, by letting the republicans come in and punish us for being gay. No democrat will make our rights their first priority as long as anti-gay republicans can still get elected.
    Hate crimes protections, hospital visitation, equality advancements for federal workers, establishing a social climate of acceptance through inclusive proclamations on mothers day, fathers day, state of the union, pride proclamaitions… all seen as “hurling us under the bus”. When will we realize a disappointing friend is better than a deadly enemy.

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