What Are the Next Steps for Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
The House of Representatives voted Thursday night to end the U.S. military ban on openly gay and bisexual service members, but the U.S. Senate and the military must act before the law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” becomes history.
The House voted 234-194 vote in favor of an amendment to a $700 billion defense spending bill that would end the ban only after a study of the effects of the law change is completed by the Pentagon. That study is due to be completed by December 1.
The Hill newspaper explains the compromise:
The chief congressional proponents of repeal reached an agreement with the Obama administration to repeal the policy only after the Pentagon finishes its review of repeal implementation and President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certify that it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.
The Hill reported that all but 26 Democrats voted for the amendment, while all but 5 Republicans voted against it.
The Senate Armed Services committee also voted 16-12 Thursday to add their own repeal amendment into the defense bill, which will now go to the entire Senate.
President Obama praised the developments in a statement.
“This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity,” he said.
There are still several hurdles President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress will have to clear before the ban goes away.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Republicans in the Senate are threatening to filibuster the defense spending bill if the law repeal amendment remains attached. The Senate is expected to take up the issue next month, according to multiple sources.
“I think it’s really going to be very harmful to the morale and effectiveness of our military,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, according to the AP. McCain, who is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on MSNBC in 2006 that he would consider lifting the ban if top military leaders told him it was the right thing to do.
“The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to,” McCain said then on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain does not want to repeal the ban before the Pentagon study is completed.
President Obama has asked Congress to repeal the 1993 law, which he promised to do during the 2008 campaign. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, told Congress earlier this year that they support a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The Hill also explains how the success of the House amendment could jeopardize the defense bill it is attached to.
However, the House vote on repeal could jeopardize the passage of the 2011 defense authorization bill. Republicans have threatened to vote against the entire bill if the repeal amendment was to be included in the bill. House Democrats are taking seriously the Republican threat to vote against the underlying bill and have had to reach out to some of the most liberal House members to secure their votes on final passage. Some liberals who traditionally vote against every defense bill are firm supporters of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”