Roll Call is reporting that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) will defy Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ request to delay legislative action on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until the Pentagon Study Group complete its year-long review of the policy and could possibly attach repeal to this year’s defense authorization bill. Levin’s statement comes just days after he asked Gates to clarify that the intent of the Pentagon study was to determine how, rather than whether to repeal the ban:
“What we ought to do is repeal it but make the effective date after the report,” Levin said. The Michigan Democrat said he’s not sure yet if he has the votes to repeal the law, however. He said he will move forward “if we can.” Levin said he hopes to add the repeal to the Defense authorization bill but will delay the implementation of the repeal until 90 days after the review is completed, which is expected by the end of the year.
Levin pointed to Gates’ letter to him last week saying the review was on how to implement the repeal, not whether to do so. “He’s reached a conclusion on whether it ought to be repealed; he’s already judged this issue,” Levin said. “He favors the repeal. So have I.”
While it’s unclear if Levin will have enough votes on the committee to attach the repeal, the Chairman’s support for a delayed implementation strategy could be a significant victory for LGBT groups who have been struggling to win support for the measure. Levin’s decision also comes on the day that gay veterans, organized by the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United, lobbied Congress to repeal the ban. The veterans met “with Gen. Carter Ham and Jeh Johnson – the co-chairs of the working group – to discuss the implementation of a repeal of the policy” and key Congressional leaders like Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
It’s still unclear if House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO), who does not support repeal, will follow the delay-implementation approach. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would not commit to “allowing a vote on the amendment,” saying that “We’ll be talking to the chairman of the committee about how he wants to proceed with his bill, but we are committed to repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.” “We are counting on that happening at the end of this year when we see the report on how they intend to repeal it, but not a question of whether they will.”
Americans support ending Dont’ Ask, Don’t Tell by overwhelming majorities, however. Yesterday, Gallup released a poll showing that “a large majority of Americans (70%) continue to favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military, with continued majority support from every key demographic subgroup.”