At 11:45 a.m., Senator Lieberman is holding a press conference to announce the introduction of the Senate bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In advance of the bill’s intro., Lieberman did an interview with Kerry Eleveld where he discussed both the process and the policy. First, the process, since that has become all-important in the dysfunctional Senate:
Lieberman, who has opposed the ’93 law since its inception, said ending the policy has significant support and that he would push for passing the bill this year, although he wasn’t sure he had the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
“I think a guess right now — and this is really a guess — if this bill came to a vote tomorrow, we’d have over 50 votes and that’s saying a lot,” he said. “Do we have 60? Not clear yet, but possible.”
But Lieberman also said he had spoken with Chairman Levin “preliminarily” about including the legislation in this year’s Defense authorization bill before it’s passed out of committee.
“That’s something that I’m happy to consider and, of course, it’s very important to have the Chairman’s support for that,” Lieberman said, noting that including a measure in committee would have “the procedural advantage” of forcing opponents to find the 60 votes needed to strip out the measure once it reached the floor. If the opposition failed to amass those votes, they would have to filibuster the entire Defense authorization bill, which would include many other provisions they might hesitate to obstruct, such as an increase in compensation for military personnel and funding for various defense systems.
Now, the policy, which calls for an end to discharges immediately, while giving the Pentagon time to complete its study and develop rules for implementing rules:
Under the Lieberman bill, discharges would become illegal and be halted on the date of enactment, or the moment the president signs the measure. However, the bill also allows the Pentagon approximately a year from February to perform its study, then another 60 days to issue new regulations and another 120 days for the individual service chiefs to issue their regulations.
“On the date of enactment, the discharges would have to stop,” said Lieberman. “Nonetheless, the bill does embrace the study that Secretary Gates has ordered within the Department.”
The White House, which has been talking with Lieberman since last fall about the bill, did not respond to a request for comment on its introduction.
As we’ve noted many, many times, the White House can demonstrate the President’s commitment to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by including the repeal provision in the policy recommendations for the Deparment of Defense that are sent Capitol Hill.