Joe Lieberman led a group of Senators introducing a bill today to repeal the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policy, joining a companion measure in the House introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA). Lieberman stressed today that denying one group the ability to serve actually “weakens our defenses.”
By and large, gay rights activists would rather see a full repeal this year, as President Obama promised in his State of the Union Address, rather than a moratorium or fairer implementation of the policy to accommodate a year-long study from the Pentagon. However, while some see the Pentagon’s study as a delaying tactic to ensure no repeal, Republicans have attacked the study as a biased action:
Some Republicans are dismissing a planned nine-month Pentagon study on gays in the military as biased because it assumes Congress will eventually repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
GOP lawmakers are likely to use the argument to try to chip away at the credibility of the assessment, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates envisions as the first comprehensive look at the policy in its 17-year lifetime.
Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and U.S. Army Forces Europe commander Gen. Carter Ham were expected to testify Wednesday before a House Armed Services subcommittee for the first time since being tapped to lead the study.
“Many of us on this committee have serious concerns with putting our men and women in uniform through such a divisive debate while they are fighting two wars,” said Rep. Buck McKeon of California, the full committee’s top Republican.
Lieberman’s repeal bill incorporates the DoD study by giving them “a year from February to perform its study, then another 60 days to issue new regulations and another 120 days for the individual service chiefs to issue their regulations.” But the discharges would have to end on the day of enactment.
So there doesn’t seem to be a lot of tension between the Pentagon timeline and a proposed repeal timeline. However, to best end the DADT policy, Servicemembers United, which has worked on repeal for many years, highlights two steps that Carl Levin and Barack Obama would need to take:
While the new bill will still have to work its way through the normal legislative process, two supporting actions will be needed to ensure passage of the bill in 2010. First, President Obama can and should include explicit repeal language in one of the Defense Department’s legislative proposal packages that will be transmitted to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees over the next two months. This would be the single most critical action the President can still take to ensure repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law in 2010.
Second, Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should ensure that full repeal language is included in the original draft of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act that is crafted within his committee. These two actions together can ensure that the necessary support is in place to secure the needed votes for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law in 2010.
We will see if this language gets into those legislative packages when they are released.
UPDATE: Just as an FYI, here are the 13 co-sponsors for the legislation in the Senate:
Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Roland Burris (D-IL), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Al Franken (D-MN)
Murphy has said he has around 180-190 confirmed supporters in the House.