Sen. Joe Lieberman says he has enough votes in the Senate to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members, but fence-sitters and Members of Congress eager to get home for the holidays may prevent any action before the end of the year.
“Last year I never got to wear a Christmas tie; I’m wearing a Christmas tie today so that may answer the question,” Sen. Ben Nelson quipped Tuesday. “I’m ready to go home for Christmas. I think we can get things done that need to be done.”
The Nebraska Democrat’s position is shared by a handful of Members who contend the Senate should vote to extend the Bush-era tax cuts by Dec. 17 and adjourn for the year. Lieberman, who has also been negotiating with a handful of moderate Republicans to support a DADT repeal, pleaded with his Democratic colleagues during Tuesday’s weekly caucus luncheon to agree to stay in session beyond that mid-December date to consider the defense authorization bill.
But Senate aides said the reaction was decidedly mixed. The dozen or so Senators who have most vocally called for a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are willing to stay in town, but others contend the Senate should stay focused on economic policy and then get home for the holidays.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has called on the Senate to stay until January to approve the defense bill.
For his part, Lieberman is reminding colleagues that the bill includes pay raises and benefits for soldiers, in addition to the repeal of the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law enacted under President Bill Clinton, and is worth a few extra days of work to pass before the end of the year.
“Most Americans work right up until the day before Christmas; our troops work right through Christmas,” Lieberman said. “The least we can do for them is to get their pay increased and their families in better housing, which is part of this bill.”
A Democratic aide said liberals could make a last-ditch effort on Dec. 17 by opposing the resolution to adjourn, though it is not clear whether anyone plans to do so. “If the adjournment resolution is put on the floor Dec. 17 with so many issues still unresolved, some Members will be hesitant to adjourn,” the aide said.
Until then, Lieberman is working back channels to get floor time and 60 votes to pass the defense authorization bill, although the one-time presidential candidate still has some whipping to do.