This afternoon, White House spokesman Shin Inouye told Metro Weekly that President Obama had spoken with one of the Senate leaders of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal -- Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) -- about the provision's inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act.
[He later added that the president "conveyed" his view of the "importance" of repeal of DADT during the lame-duck session of Congress to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who -- Reid's senior staff told officials at several LGBT organizations -- is "committed to moving forward on repeal" by holding a vote on the NDAA in the lame-duck session.]
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had, earlier in the day, told The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld at the press briefing that passage of the NDAA, with DADT repeal, in the lame-duck session of Congress is "in the same category" as passage of the START nuclear treaty and the extension of the middle-class tax cuts.
Inouye wrote, "Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck."
He added, "The President's call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue."
Gibbs had noted at the briefing that Obama had not yet spoken to Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) or Susan Collins (R-Maine) -- two key votes for lame-duck repeal.
[UPDATE: The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports, "Good news: Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is not dead yet," repeating a line that others have been trying to say for the past week.
He adds, however:
[V]ery plugged in staffers who are actively involved in counting votes for Senators who favor repeal tell me it's premature to conclude this -- and that it could still get 60 votes in the Senate. These staffers tell me they've received private indications from a handful of moderate GOP Senators that they could vote for cloture on a Defense Authorization Bill with DADT repeal in it -- if Dem leaders agree to hold a sustained debate on the bill on the Senate floor.
Then, he discusses a pro-repeal news conference that has been in the works:
Sources also tell me that senators Joe Lieberman [(I-Conn.)], Mark Udall [(D-Colo.)] and Kirsten Gillibrand [(D-N.Y.)] will hold a press conference tomorrow urging the Dem leadership to allow the final two-week debate, arguing that this still can happen. This is no small thing: They are urging their own party leadership to do this.
Now, however, it appears that more Democrats are comfortable telling their leadership that the NDAA needs to pass and that it needs to include DADT repeal. From a release from Gillibrand's office, the following senators have signed on to attend Thursday's news conference, in addition to Lieberman, Udall and Gillibrand: Sens. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). Karen Ocamb at LGBT POV also has reported that Lieberman's office confirmed participation of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), as well as noting they expect more senators to sign on before the news conference.]
[FURTHER UPDATE: This evening, Inouye added further information to thie mix, writing:
Today, Jim Messina, Phil Schiliro, Chris Kang and Brian Bond from the White House, along with stakeholders, met with senior staff from Majority Leader Reid’s office to discuss the importance of moving forward with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' during the lame duck. The President has also previously conveyed this message directly to Senator Reid.
The Human Rights Campaign later added that both Obama and Reid "are committed to moving forward on repeal" by holding a vote on the NDAA in the lame-duck session.
The full HRC statement:
Key Senate leadership and Administration officials this evening met with representatives of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF). The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act – the bill to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached – to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess. Further the Majority Leader and the President made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.
Present at the meeting with representatives from HRC, SLDN and CAPAF were: Jim Messina, Deputy White House Chief of Staff; Phil Schiliro, White House Director of Legislative Affairs; Chris Kang, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Reid; and Serena Hoy, Senior Counsel to Majority Leader Reid.
And so ends the third day of the lame-duck session.]
[Photo: President Obama at a September 2010 news conference. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]