Could a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell stop-gap measure hit the U.S. Senate as early as Tuesday? If reports out of New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office are to be believed, then yes.
We’ve been following Sen. Gillibrand’s movements on gay rights since her appointment to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat. You’ll recall that Gillibrand, once a laissez-faire supporter of same-sex marriage as a U.S. congresswoman, quickly bumped up her support for GLBTs in the 24 hours after joining the Senate; she became a full marriage equality supporter … overnight. Also from the beginning: She insisted she supports repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and DADT.
And then, a few months into the gig, she told constituents that she would definitely have her name on a DADT bill. Officially, she’s working alongside Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office to bring a repeal to the floor; that camp is also hunting for bipartisan support.
But in the meantime comes news Gillibrand plans to amend the Defense Department’s budget authorization bill with an 18-month moratorium on DADT dismissals.
The “pass this as an amendment” strategy would mean senators who favor the Pentagon’s budget will, by default, also join in calling for the 1.5 year hold on DADT. The side effect: We won’t get the clear picture on which senators support DADT’s repeal that we would from a stand alone bill — though for that sort of data, we have lists like this one.
So why an amendment bill that calls for an 18-month moratorium, and not a full on repeal? Likely because Team Gillibrand doesn’t feel they’ve got the votes for it. Thus, putting such a “contentious” amendment on a budget bill would guarantee the Pentagon’s dollars get held up in haggling over gays and our national security. But if the Senate orchestrates an 18-month hold, it gives colleagues that amount of time to organize support for a full repeal; maybe even the president could get in on the lobbying effort?
And what are the chances the language in this amendment could not only call for an 18-month stall, but also a full-blown automatic repeal if legislators don’t re-approve DADT?
For Gillibrand’s part, this would represent a move in keeping her promise to be an ally to the gays. It also comes as Gillibrand faces a tough reelection bid in November 2010, and undoubtedly she’s working to shore up support from New York’s gays and their supporters. Of course if you do the math, if her 18-month bill passes this summer, repealing DADT won’t be an issue to address politically until … after the election. Curious.