Moments ago, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) — who had previously told reporters that he would not support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) before the military completed its year-long review of the policy — announced that he would vote for a compromise to delay implementation until after officials certified the findings of the review. Nelson’s support brings the total number of votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee to 15, enough to attach the delayed-implementation amendment (offered by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)) to the defense authorization measure on Thursday. When the amendment passes in committee, it would require 60 votes to strip repeal from the bill during the floor debate. The Defense Authorization bill is expected to pass both Houses and be signed by the President by late summer or early fall.
From Nelson’s statement:
I will support the Lieberman compromise because it removes politics from the process. It bases implementation of the repeal on the Pentagon’s review and a determination by our military leaders that repeal is consistent with military readiness and effectiveness, and that the Pentagon has prepared the necessary regulations to make the changes.
“I spoke to Secretary Gates and he advised that while he preferred waiting until the study is completed, he can live with this compromise.
“The Lieberman compromise shows that Congress values the Pentagon’s review that will include the advice and viewpoints from our men in women in uniform, from outside experts and from the American people about how to implement the repeal. It rests ultimate authority to make this change with our military leaders. I believe this is the right thing to do.”
Until today, it was unclear if the new compromise would win over enough votes, but Nelson’s statement suggests that the compromise and Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ support, was critical to Nelson’s decision. As he told Metro Weekly last week, “I want to follow with the advice and the suggestions of Secretary of Defense Gates to have the study that is underway right now before we make that final decision — because it’s not a question of ‘whether,’ it’s a question of ‘how,” Nelson said. At that time, Nelson was also unsure if he could support the delayed-implementation approach. ““I don’t know,” Nelson said. “I haven’t seen that legislation. I know there’s probably some support for that, but I think it’s been made pretty clear by Secretary Gates that we shouldn’t take any action until the study is completed, and that’s my position. That’s where I’m going to stay.’”