In a perhaps unlikely twist in the battle to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s a group of Republicans who may make the difference on whether the policy is axed this year.
The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization for gay Republicans, brought the lawsuit that resulted in DADT being ruled unconstitutional last September — even though the government has been successful in staying the court’s ruling pending appeal.
And it’s the group that President Obama implored to deliver Republican votes when the Senate takes up repeal in the lame-duck session. But he’s preaching, as Log Cabins executive director Clarke Cooper tells TPM, to the gay Republican choir.
“We have to go back,” Cooper said. “There are a number of senators who were not fully comfortable being vocal for repeal before adjournment.”
There are a handful — four or five, he said — of Republican senators who he expects to be very persuadable. Those are the ones, he said, who asked for data from the Pentagon’s review of DADT before making a decision.
“Those are the ones that are gonna be very open to the idea of actually voting in favor of repeal,” he said. “These are senators who have been very amenable to the conversation, and have put forth positive indicators … but just need a little more.”
The push they might need, he said, is the report the Pentagon will release in early December on its review.
“With that being done and the election being under everyone’s belt, we can finally get this done,” he said.
He declined to name the four or five his group will be zeroing in on, but noted that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (R-ME) are already on board.
Cooper argues, in fact, that he had the votes for repeal back in September, when the Senate voted to block debate on the Defense Authorization bill. The wrench in the game — as any Republican, gay or not, will tell you — came from Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“This is the point I made to the president. The Senate could have at least started the process,” he said. But Reid’s decision not to allow amendments was a “surefire guarantee to shut down the system. And Harry Reid knew that.”
All in all, he remains hopeful that, with the review done, repeal can be done this year.
“We could be faced with a scenario — which I’d be happy with — where the case becomes moot,” Cooper said.