The head of a gay veterans group estimates that Congress has between a 50 or 60 percent chance of legislatively ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year, but only if the Senate takes up a repeal measure before breaking for Thanksgiving recess.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, made public a video Thursday emphasizing the importance of bringing to the Senate floor no later than Nov. 22 the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill — legislation to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language is passed.
“What happens if the defense authorization bill isn’t brought before the Senate recesses for Thanksgiving?” Nicholson says. “Well, it’s possible in theory to still get it done, but the chances go down from about 50 or 60 percent to about five or six percent.”
Nicholson estimates that debating and voting on the defense authorization bill could take about two weeks and another two weeks would be needed for the House and the Senate to conference the legislation. Therefore, bringing up the bill in November is necessary for having enough time to complete legislative work on the bill.
In September, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on moving forward with the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill. A unified GOP — along with Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) — voted against the motion to proceed.
Still, Nicholson dismisses speculation that the opportunity for legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year has passed and maintains “there still is a path to get this done this year.”
“It’s a narrow path, it’s a delicate path,” he says. “But don’t let anyone tell you that the path does not exist because it certainly does. It’s just going to take a little patience to understand it and a lot of work and pressure on the right people to get this done.”
For the bill to have new life, Nicholson says pressure is needed on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule the legislation for vote, on the White House to whip the votes necessary for repeal and on moderate Republicans to switch their votes from September to support moving the legislation to the Senate floor.
Watch the video here: