“Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s ban on openly gay service members, faces new uncertainties as time runs out for the U.S. Senate to advance the Defense Authorization bill, legislation that currently includes the provision.
The White House continues to push for repeal this year during the lame duck session of Congress, recognizing that it will be even tougher to end the 17-year-ban when Republicans gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year.
“The White House opposes any effort to strip ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Monday in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
That announcement came on the heels of a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier Monday that said that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member on the committee, were “in talks” about “stripping the proposed [DADT] repeal and other controversial provisions” from the NDAA.
McCain and other Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the defense bill in September that included the provision allowing repeal of DADT.
Since their victory in mid-term elections last week, Republican opposition to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has intensified, and even Democrats quietly acknowledge that prospects are dim for any action in Congress.
On Tuesday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), issued a statement urging the Senate to pass the NDAA and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.
“The Senate should act immediately to debate and pass a defense authorization bill and repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ during the lame duck session. The Senate has passed a defense bill for forty-eight consecutive years. We should not fail to meet that responsibility now, especially while our nation is at war. We must also act to put an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that not only discriminates against but also dishonors the service of gay and lesbian service members.
“The National Defense Authorization Act is essential to the safety and well-being of our service members and their families, as well as for the success of military operations around the world. The bill will increase the pay of all service members, authorize needed benefits for our veterans and wounded warriors, and launch military construction projects at bases throughout the country.
“The process established by the defense bill would also allow ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to be repealed in an orderly manner, and only after the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have certified to Congress that repeal is ‘consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.’ If Congress does not act to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in an orderly manner that leaves control with our nation’s military leaders, a federal judge may do so unilaterally in a way that is disruptive to our troops and ongoing military efforts. It is important that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ be dealt with this year, and it appears that the only way that can happen is if it is on the defense bill.”
“The stakes for repeal happening this year couldn’t be higher, said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement Tuesday.
“Sen. John McCain wants repeal language stripped out of the defense bill so he is not forced to take an on-the-record vote against funding the troops, and he wants the Democrats to give in to his outrageous demands,” Dais said. “We have to stand up against this bullying,”
Davis said that talk of removing repeal language from the defense bill “is unacceptable and offensive to the gay and lesbian service members who risk their lives every day.”