Nancy Pelosi responded strongly to last night’s news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs want no changes to the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy until their one-year review is complete. Fine, Pelosi said, we’ll make no changes in Congress as long as the President immediately authorizes an end to the discharging of gay and lesbian soldiers. Here is her short statement:
“We all look forward to the report on the review of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy by the Defense Department. In the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.”
This essentially calls the Administration’s bluff. The President has said he supports ending the policy. So does the Defense Secretary. So does the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Pelosi reminds them, and everyone else, that they have the power to end the consequences of the policy right now without further action from Congress. So while we wait, for some reason, for this review, we can stop discriminating against people for their sexual orientation, with the stroke of a pen.
Previously, Pelosi promised a floor vote in the House on the policy by the end of the year. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), the Iraq war vet who has been carrying the standalone bill on this, has 192 co-sponsors and claims to have the necessary votes for passage.
Obviously, as the Congresswoman from San Francisco, Pelosi is serving a large portion of her constituents by taking this position. But as the Speaker of the House, her words take on greater significance. And she basically told the White House to put up or shut up.
Within 3-4 weeks, we should see a defense authorization bill out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Chairman Carl Levin may choose to include a moratorium of discharges under the policy, or its full repeal, inside that bill.