Sean Bugg

Senator Harry Reid Attempts to Clarify, but Future of DADT Repeal Still Unclear

Filed By Sean Bugg | June 16, 2009 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement

Think Progress has a new statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), clarifying his remarks yesterday that he had no plans to introduce a bill to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, and attempting to kick the ball back to the White House to solve "administratively."

Under fire from a lot of LGBT corners, and with donors beginning to pull out of a big fundraiser for big-money gays, Reid today said in his statement:

While we do not have a Don't Ask Don't Tell bill introduced in the Senate yet, a number of Senators are working on an approach to get it repealed. We would welcome a legislative proposal from the White House on repeal so as to provide clear guidance on what the President would like to see and when.

Reid also said that if the House moves on its already-introduced DADT-repeal bill, the Senate would gladly take it up.

So, where do we stand? The House has a bill but won't move on it, with leaders from that side and the administration saying that DADT will come after Hate Crimes and ENDA - so no movement there. Senator Reid can't find a sponsor for a bill that would take action supported by 70-percent of Americans.

Meanwhile, President Obama continues to lay the burden on Congress to repeal the odious DADT legislation, and refuses to issue a stop-loss order to at least end discharges while we wait for someone to actually step up and exercise a little leadership and responsibility.

The more things change....

Kerry Eleveld at the Advocate has a more optimistic take on Reid's statement, quoting Reid as saying, "With presidential leadership and direction, I believe we can find the time to get repeal done in this Congress. We need all the troops we can get right now." She also places that alongside comments from Barney Frank that DADT would have to wait until 2010, placing possible action within this congress.

I can understand the glass-half-full approach, but I'm sticking for the moment with my more dour, half-empty view.

First, Reid is still attempting to punt the issue back to Obama. In some ways, that's fair enough given Obama's campaign promises to press for DADT repeal. But it avoids the fact that congress can take leadership on the issue itself. It is, after all, the body that first devised the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation. Reid and the Democratic leadership of the Senate could stand to grow a spine and put some effort into this.

I'll believe that "a number of senators" are working on repeal when I see evidence beyond a statement from the Majority Leader's office.

Second, we shouldn't fool ourselves that 2010 is some magical year in which the Obama sunshine and unicorns that were delivered to other Democratic constituencies will suddenly be distributed to LGBT people as well. It is a long time from now till 2010 and any political misstep or shift in fortunes - say, the reverberations through the middle east of a destabilized Iran, or a crash-and-burn debut of health care - and if the fortunes of Obama and the Democrats go south, experience tells us that we wil be among the first dropped when it comes to covering asss for mid-term elections.

Even without dire developments, I would expect some number of conservative Democrats to hamstring DADT repeal during an election year. At the risk of harping, with 70-percent support from Americans, we should be pushing for this to happen sooner rather than later - and that includes everything from a presidential stop-loss order to legislation on both sides of the Hill.

Someone, somewhere, needs to put up or shut up on something other than Hate Crimes, which is a symbolic piece of legislation that won't have nearly the impact of DADT repeal, partner immigration rights, or even ENDA.

Editor's Note: This is a cross-post from Sean's blog, appropriately called BuggBlog. Visit it often, as he loves tennis, sports cars and politics.

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