The White House on Monday once again called for the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law during the lame-duck session of Congress.
The House of Representatives already passed a law earlier this year to repeal the Clinton-era policy, but Senate Republicans stood united in preventing it from even coming up for a debate in September when it was attached to the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill.
Many Democrats and gay rights advocacy groups believe the lame-duck session is the last best chance of repealing the policy as long as Republicans have control of the House and more members in the Senate. A Gallup poll in May showed 70 percent of Americans – including 53 percent of conservatives – think gays should be allowed to openly serve in the military. Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to be against the idea though, or at least want to wait to take any action until Dec. 1 when the Department of Defense releases its findings of its months-long review over how allowing gays to openly serve might effect military personnel and unit cohesion.
Republicans have been staunchly opposed to the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal being included in the defense authorization bill, which has led Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to try and strip the language from the bill; however, the White House and gay rights groups have both said they were opposed to any effort to cut the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal out of the authorization bill.
“Any talk about a watered-down defense bill, whereby the ‘don’t ask’ revisions would be stripped out, is unacceptable and offensive to the gay and lesbian service members who risk their lives every day,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also said over the weekend he wanted the repeal to pass before the end of the year but said Congress should wait until after the Pentagon published its study.
“I would like to see the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are and we’ll just have to see,” Gates told reporters traveling with him to Australia.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said he would bring the defense authorization bill up again during the lame-duck session and hoped the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ measure would pass this time.
“He, of course, can’t do it alone,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “The senator needs Republicans to at least agree to have a debate on this issue – a debate he firmly believes the Senate should have.”
Whether Reid brings the bill up for a vote shortly after lawmakers return this month or he waits until after the Pentagon’s review is given has not yet been announced, but either way the pressure is on Congress to act.
“The Senate should call up the defense bill reported out of committee and pass it before it goes home for the year,” Sarvis said. “If the president, Majority Leader Reid, Secretary Gates and a handful of Republican senators are committed to passing the comprehensive defense bill, there is ample time to do so.”
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