Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday announced his commitment to bring legislation to the Senate floor containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal before lawmakers adjourn for the year.
“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”
In another statement on Wednesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he welcomes the news from Reid.
“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed and the [defense authorization bill] — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said.
Levin added he has asked Reid to hold off on the motion to proceed with the bill until December after the Pentagon working group has a chance to complete its study on implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
“I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December,” Levin said.
Earlier in the evening, advocacy groups working on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center for American Progress — issued a joint statement saying they had met with Obama administration officials and Reid staffers on Wednesday evening and received the same commitment about the vote.
“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act – the bill to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached – to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” the statement said.
Additionally, the statement says Reid and Obama are opposed to moving forward with the defense authorization bill without the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision. Media reports have circulated that Levin has been in conversations with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about stripping the defense authorization bill of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language.
According to statements from both the advocacy groups and the White House, among those present at the meeting were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro; Brian Bond, the LGBT liaison for the White House; and David Krone, Reid’s chief of staff.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said in the statement that the president had previously conveyed the importance of moving forward with the defense authorization bill in a message to Reid.
Details about the procedural conditions for the vote and when it would be scheduled limited on Wednesday evening. The statement from the advocacy groups said Reid’s office would announce these details later.
Unlike in September, when the Senate earlier tried to move forward with the defense authorization bill but failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster, Senate leadership isn’t planning to amend the legislation the next time around with the DREAM Act, an immigration-related bill.
Reid has said the legislation will come up as a standalone bill before the Senate at another time during the lame duck session.
The news about the vote comes after the White House issued a statement earlier in the day saying Obama restated his commitment to keeping “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language in the defense authorization bill in a phone call Wednesday with Levin.
“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” Inouye said in the statement.
In the statement, Inouye added that this conversation with Levin follows “outreach” the president in which the president has engaged with both Democratic and Republican senators on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The President’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue,” Inouye said.
In a follow-up statement to the Blade, Inouye said he couldn’t characterize this outreach any further.