During a press conference today, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) responded to questions regarding the amendment repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Describing the closed-door debate over the policy as “lively,” Levin said he was “optimistic” that the DADT amendment will remain on the final bill, but admitted that the provision has “complicated my life to get the bill to the floor.”
Levin stressed that the Senate Armed Services Committee — which passed the amendment by a vote of 16 to 12— “followed the same course as the top military leaders of this country set out” but acknowledged a tough road ahead for the measure. Levin also clarified that a complete repeal would require the military to change its own regulations:
LEVIN: There are two hurdles here. One is a hurdle that exists in the law, the other is the hurdle that exists in the regulations. So all we’ve done here, even if we get the certification, that there is no negative effect on cohesion or readiness, is remove one hurdle. But there is still a regulatory prohibition that exists in the military’s own regulations. All we did is put that regulation in law back in 1993, or whenever it was. So, the fact that even if we did get the certification — which I hope we do and expect we will — and even if we then say ‘ok, you’ve met that test and now it’s in your hands.’ It still requires action by the military to act on their own regulations, their own prohibitions. So it’s two steps, it’s two hurdles.
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Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the chief sponsor of repeal in the House — sounded far more optimistic about a swift repeal. During my interview with him, he said, “I take both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen at their word and that they both have articulated the need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that I believe our agreement is a smart agreement and that it truly dismantles Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Murphy also said he’s received assurances that repeal would occur “shortly after” the study was certified.
Levin said he hopes the full Senate will take up the defense authorization measure before the summer recess.