As gay activists organize against the administration’s reluctance to commit to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) — a member of the critical Senate Armed Services Committee — is saying that Democrats are “within a vote or two” of including repeal legislation in this year’s Defense Authorization bill. Yesterday, Udall hosted a press conference to reiterate his support for ending the policy this year:
The Pentagon is studying how to implement an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and while I agree that is a necessary step, I also believe strongly that we must repeal it this year. I will continue to work with other senators to ensure that the repeal is included in the Defense Authorization bill, which will be marked up in the Senate Armed Services Committee next month. But we still face an uphill battle, and we will need a bipartisan push to clinch this urgent effort. The stories these dismissed service members told me today are extremely powerful and compelling, and they’ll help as I urge my colleagues to support repeal. The countless men and women who currently are unable to serve our country honestly deserve a change. And I believe it’s imperative for our national security.
“I’m going to push everybody possible to see this happens this year. We’ve had this discussion long enough,” Udall told the Denver Post. “The Pentagon has taken some big forward steps that they’ve never been willing to take. I don’t under estimate the steps they’re taking, but in the end we need to change the law.”
Indeed, when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates first announced the formation of the study group in February, Udall proposed that Congress move concurrently with the study and has since co-sponsored Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) repeal legislation that would end the policy within 13 months of enactment and set benchmarks for the Pentagon’s ongoing review. To the frustration of many, however, President Obama has yet to endorse the measure or recommit to ending the policy this year. During today’s White House Press conference, Gibbs said the administration would wait for the Pentagon to complete its review before pushing for repeal.