The Associated Press is reporting that Joe Manchin (D-WV) — who had previously told me that he didn’t “believe the rules should be changed until the battlefield commanders can certify it doesn’t hurt unit cohesion” — is now hinting that he would vote against lifting the ban in the lame duck session. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Manchin reiterated his concerns about lifting the ban during a time of war and the effect the change would have on military chaplains:
“They don’t believe that it should be invoked at a point of time when they’re engaged in combat, because it would be a hard transition for them,” Manchin said. “So, if someone’s trying to push that through with a vote quicker, it might not be prudent. I’m not sure if the votes would be there to do that.” [...]
“Do the clergy believe that this makes (it) harder for them to do the mission that they believe in, which is preaching the Gospel and the Bible as they believe, or does it kind of give them a pause, if you will,” Manchin said.
To be clear, the Pentagon’s Working Group survey met Manchin’s first requirement — that is, it concluded that repeal would not undermine unit cohesion — and addressed his new concerns.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen both urged Congress to lift the ban before the courts force the military to act at the turn of a dime and the Service Chiefs all testified that they would be able to effectively implement repeal during a time of war. Responding to Manchin’s question about the effect of repeal on the chaplains, all five Service Chiefs said that repeal would have a “small” effect on attrition.