WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a message to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) repeal advocates on Sunday: Don't hold your breath. He said the policy change is unlikely to happen this year. He stated, however, that the prognosis for passing an extension of unemployment benefits and tax cuts looks brighter.
The National Defense Authorization Act, said McConnell on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, typically takes two weeks. "I don't see how we can possibly finish the defense authorization bill, a two-week bill, fully aside from these controversial items that are in it -- there are a whole lot of other things in it -- before the end of the year."
When asked by host David Gregory whether he thinks there is enough support to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, McConnell simply replied, "My personal view is that Sen. McCain is correct on this. I tend to follow his lead. We'll find out when we finally get around to debating this bill, which I think will be before the end of the year." McCain, of course, has been one of the most vocal opponents of repealing DADT, consistently finding new explanations for supporting the ban.
McConnell also said he was optimistic that all of the Bush-era tax cuts would be extended; the issue is now for what length of time they will be continued.
A White House official told The Huffington Post's Sam Stein that on Saturday, "The president told Democratic congressional leaders ... that he was open to compromise, but he would oppose even a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts if it did not include an extension of benefits for the unemployed and extensions of the other tax cuts that benefit middle-class families. Without them, taxes would still rise for 95 percent of Americans."
On Sunday, McConnell stated, "I think we will extend unemployment benefits," although he said that discussions were still going on over whether/how to pay for them.
UPDATE, 11:59 a.m.: On CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) also said that the "recipe" for extending tax cuts "would include at least an extension of unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed, and an extension of all of the tax rates for all Americans for some period of time." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) replied, "Well, I can tell you that without unemployment benefits being extended personally, this is a non-starter. The notion that we would give tax cuts to those making over a million dollars a year, which is the Republican position, and then turn our backs on 2 million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits before Christmas, 127,000 in the state of Illinois, is unconscionable."