Compromise Deal Reached for DADT Vote

May 24, 2010 9:01pm

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Z. Byron Wolf report: 

The Obama administration has expressed support for a compromise deal between lawmakers and the Pentagon that would repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy this year, but delay its implementation until after the Pentagon completes its year-long review of how the repeal would be implemented.

Implementation of the repeal would also wait for certification by the President and the Pentagon. 

The compromise clears the way for votes this week in both the House floor and he Senate Armed Services Committee on an amendment to repeal the law.

In a letter to lawmakers, who had been pushing for a repeal vote this week, the White House wrote that the amendment proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman, (I-CT) and Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA)” puts a process in place to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once the working group has completed its review” and the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs “certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”  

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag’s response confirmed that “the Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” and “the Administration therefore supports the proposed amendment.” 

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, President of the gay advocacy group, The Human Rights Campaign said, "Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon's hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory 'don't ask, don't tell' law."

Democrats who want to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy are in a race against the electoral clock.

While they know they’ll likely lose votes in the House and Senate November, they also know that the Pentagon review of how to go about replacing the DADT policy will take at least that long. 

Congressional and White House staffers met today with gay activists at the White House on possible compromise language to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy toward gays and lesbians ahead of schedule.

Earlier today,  the talks were characterized by one House leadership aide as “promising,” any talk of a deal is “premature.”

“In the House, we still have to ensure we have the votes to pass an amendment on the floor to the Defense Authorization. Discussions on that to continue this week,” said the aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.

The math could be even more difficult in the Senate, where some moderates might be unwilling to vote for a repeal until after the Pentagon completes its review.

Meanwhile, close votes are expected this week in both the House and the Senate Armed Services on the Defense Authorization bill, which would be the logical vehicle for a DADT repeal.

In a letter to the White House tonight, Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, Carl Levin, D-Michigan (and Armed Services Committee Chairman) and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Penn, asked the White House to weigh in on the proposal. 

The administration response from Orszag can be found here: http://lieberman.senate.gov/assets/pdf/DADT_WH.pdf

Defense Secretary Robert Gates had been emphatic that he would prefer not to see Congress repeal DADT until after the Pentagon conducts its year-long review of how to implement such a repeal.  In a letter to the House Armed Services Committee a few weeks ago he urged Congress “in the strongest possible terms” not to repeal the law before the review is completed.   

Earlier today,  Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman had this to say to reports that a deal is in the works,“ “Congress has chosen to address this issue this week and we are trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering.”

At least one Democrat gives the new proposal a tepid response.

In a paper statement, Sen. Jim Webb, D-VA, said the Pentagon should complete its review before Congress acts.

“This examination, which also will include an assessment of the implications of changing the law, will take approximately a year. The Department of Defense will then report back to Congress for further review of the legislation,” he said. 

ABC News has learned that Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee,  is likely to vote in favor of the amendment. 

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