DADT Faces Shaky Ground in Senate Even As White House Backs Repeal

Top White House officials affirmed the administration’s support of DADT’s repeal, but a lame duck Senate vote seems a long shot

WASHINGTON — A top White House official on Monday said the Obama administration opposes any effort by Senate Republicans to remove a repeal measure for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from the defense authorization bill Congress may consider during the upcoming lame duck session.

“The White House opposes any effort to strip ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from the National Defense Authorization Act,” said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer’s pronouncement came just days after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the first time urged Congress to act swiftly and pass the bill before new lawmakers less sympathetic to LGBT issues change the face of the Senate, and, especially, the House of Representatives—which Republicans will soon dominate as a result of the midterm elections.

“I would like to see the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are and we’ll just have to see,” Gates said. The defense secretary had previously and consistently asserted that he backed the stalling of DADT’s repeal until the completion of a Pentagon study on the possible effects of lifting the ban.

Despite newly fortified support from the Obama administration, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as attached to the defense legislation likely faces an uphill battle in Congress’ lame duck session. The new commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amox, said over the weekend that he opposes the anti-gay policy’s repeal and made what The New York Times referred to as “unusual comments about troops’ sleeping arrangements.”

“There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women—and when you talk of infantry, we’re talking our young men—laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers,” said Amos. “I don’t know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that’s what we’re looking at. It’s unit cohesion, it’s combat effectiveness.”

Amos’ opinion directly conflicts with those of most members of the armed services and their families—a majority of whom responded in a recent military survey that they would have no problem with DADT’s abolition. Nonetheless, major news outlets are reporting that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), are in negotiations over whether the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision should be completely shaved off the defense authorization bill. Senate Democrats in September were unable to garner enough votes for the bill to overcome a Republican filibuster led by Sen. McCain.

The Pentagon will on Dec. 1 make public its report— which includes the aforementioned survey of active-duty service members—on how to most efficiently orchestrate DADT’s repeal. If the Pentagon findings seem to tilt on the side of overturning the anti-gay law, they could bolster the case for a Senate vote in coming weeks. But many experts on the issue predict that politically potent issues such as the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts will take precedence in the short lame duck session.

LGBT equality advocates fear that removal of the DADT provision from the defense authorization bill and a resulting failure to vote on DADT before year-end could postpone the ban’s proposed repeal indefinitely, given the upcoming (and probably unfavorable) shifts in Congress.


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