Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reid pushing forward with repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

by Matthew Anderson

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 19, 2010 ( – Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this week that the Senate will consider a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after it gets back from its Thanksgiving break. The policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military, has been in effect since 1993.

The repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill setting Defense Department funding and policy. In addition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, the authorization bill also includes an amendment from Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) that would allow both domestic and overseas military hospitals to perform elective abortions.

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told reporters that he was confident Democrats could get 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the authorization bill with the “don’t ask” repeal in it. Lieberman said getting those 60 votes would depend on if the amendment process is “fair and open.”

In September, the Democrats failed to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster lead by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). At the time, Democrats attempted to convince Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine to break from the main GOP bloc and vote to end debate. However, the liberal-leaning women ultimately voted with the Republicans, arguing that GOP amendments to the bill had not received enough consideration.

Now, though, a dozen Democrats along with Lieberman are asking Reid to allow GOP amendments to the bill in order to win over Collins and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). Both senators have said they will vote for the bill if Reid allows for a fair debate.

President Obama has promised to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” before the end of his first term, and with the newly elected Republicans set to take control January 3, the “lameduck” session is considered the last chance to repeal.

According to the Washington Post, a Pentagon official reaffirmed Obama’s position Thursday. When asked if the administration still supported getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “That's what we as an administration are pushing for, and we certainly see the merit in using that as the legislative vehicle to ultimately get to repeal.”

However, an actual vote is not considered likely until after December 1 when a Pentagon investigation into the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” on military operations and troop morale is set to be released.

After the results of the study were leaked earlier this month, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins slammed the report as biased: “We have criticized this study from the outset because the (group conducing it) was forbidden to explore the central question before the country - not how to implement a repeal of the current law, but whether doing so is in the best interest of the armed forces.

“The surveys of service members and their spouses which were conducted as part of this process shared the same flaw, since they never asked, 'Do you believe the current law should be overturned?’” he said.

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