The Obama administration this afternoon signaled its willingness to support a compromise amendment expediting a vote on President Obama’s promise to repeal the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
Why the sudden flurry of activity on the issue?
Beyond the obvious reason that this is an important issue for many people, some supporters of lifting the ban are concerned about putting the vote off until after this November, when Democrats are expected to lose seats in the House and Senate and possibly could even lose control of the House.
The Pentagon didn’t want Congress to take up action until after its Comprehensive Review Working Group completed its review on implementation on lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, due to be completed by December 1, 2010.
So here’s the compromise.
The amendment from the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Penn., would allow lawmakers to vote to repeal the policy as soon as this week.
But the policy would not change until after December 1, when the Pentagon review is completed. Perhaps long after that.
The amendment states that the repeal won’t take place until after:
• the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group finishes its study on implementing the change;
• the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff send Congress a written certification signed by all three of them stating that they’ve all considered the recommendations, the Pentagon has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement it, and that the new policy is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”
Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, will introduce the amendment this week as the House takes up the defense authorization bill.
Murphy did not introduce the amendment as the authorization bill made its way out of the House Armed Services Committee because chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., opposes it.
Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag wrote to Levin, Lieberman and Murphy today that while “ideally” Congress would hold off on any legislative action until the review is completed, the administration “understands that Congress has chosen to move forward with legislation now.”
The Obama administration, Orszag writes, believes “the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” by allowing the review to be completed, enabling the Pentagon to assess the review, and ensuring that the implementation of the repeal “is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.”
Orszag underlines that the amendment gives the Pentagon the discretion to be able to prepare necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal and recognize “the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions.”
In a February ABC News poll on the subject, three-quarters of Americans said that gays and lesbians who disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the Armed Forces — up from 44 percent in 1993. This includes 64 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of conservatives and 58 percent of white evangelical Protestants who support gays and lesbians serving openly.
– Jake Tapper