Will the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ make it to the Senate floor for vote?

By |2018-01-16T06:08:36-05:00December 9th, 2010|News|

By Lisa Keen

After the Senate hearings on DADT Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, battle lines are still very much where they were at the beginning, with one exception.
Massachusetts’ Republican Senator Scott Brown said he would vote for repeal, once it reaches the floor. He did not say whether he’d be willing to rebuff Republican Party leaders in order to help bring the measure to the floor.
And there’s the rub. Unless 60 votes can be mustered to call the Defense Authorization bill to the Senate floor, Brown’s support will be of minimal consequence.
The hearings made clear that the military leadership concedes – if not agrees – that the current ban on gays in the military should be repealed. The service chiefs of all four branches of the armed forces, plus the Coast Guard, believe repeal can be implemented without sacrificing readiness and unit cohesion. They believe the Pentagon report released Nov. 30 provides a solid plan for implementation.
But not everyone agrees on timing, and discussion during the hearings went a long way to muddle exactly which timing everyone does not agree with: Timing for implementation, timing for full implementation, and timing for a Congressional vote on repeal.
This much is clear concerning implementation: Army General George Casey said “not now,” Air Force General Norton Schwartz said “not until 2012,” and Marine General James Amos said it should begin “when our singular focus is no longer on combat operations or preparing units for combat.
“At that point,” Amos said, “then I’d be comfortable with implementing repeal.”
Other military leaders would be comfortable beginning the process now, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chief Vice Chairman General James Cartwright, Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, and Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp.
These leaders believe DADT should be repealed, along with at least 56 senators, 234 members of the House, and 50 to 70 percent of Americans (depending on which recent poll you look at). And, according to the Pentagon study, at least 70 percent of servicemembers say repeal would have a “positive, mixed, or no effect” on task cohesion.
The sticking point for senators is the timing of the Senate’s vote on whether to repeal. Republicans, led by Arizona Senator John McCain, are steadfastly against allowing a vote and have vowed to prevent the underlying Defense Authorization bill to the floor. They say it’s because the nation has more urgent matters, such as taxes and job creation, that the Congress should concern itself with in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Others say it’s because they want to stall issues they oppose, such as DADT repeal, from reaching the floor until next year, when they take control of the House and have a stronger posture in the Senate.
Most military leaders expressed concern during the hearings that Congress should take a vote now and they expressed enormous and unanimous confidence that Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen would not sign the necessary papers for repeal implementation to begin until they were certain the service chiefs agreed the military’s readiness would not suffer. Their urgency was driven by concern that lawsuits are making their way through the federal court system now that have the potential to force the military to accept openly gay people immediately. Such a sudden demand, they said, would be seriously detrimental to military readiness.
The focus now shifts back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and whether they will be able to come to an agreement that will allow the defense authorization bill to come to the floor. Prior to Dec. 1, such an agreement seemed to pivot on whether Reid would allow Republicans to proffer numerous amendments to the bill, including one to strip DADT repeal from the measure. But on Dec. 1, McConnell and all 41 other Republicans in the Senate signed a letter to Reid, saying they would not vote to proceed on consideration of “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase.”

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.