The drive in Congress to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy appears all but lost for the foreseeable future, with action unlikely this year and even less likely once Republicans take charge of the House in January.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he wants to overturn the policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the armed forces. Advocates on both sides believed the issue had a chance of coming up in this month’s post-election session of Congress. Now that looks unlikely.
Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.
A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, who opposes the repeal, confirmed he is in talks with Mr. Levin on how to proceed on the defense bill but didn’t provide details.
Moving the defense bill is also complex, especially if it includes controversial measures, because it could take two weeks or longer on the Senate floor, and the coming session is expected to last only three or four weeks.
Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No.
This should be easy. Most of the country, including the rank and file in the military, think the law should be repealed or don’t have a problem with openly gay soldiers. And even if they did, it’s still the right thing to do; equality is not something you vote on anyway.
I know that I have counseled patience with the process of doing the repeal the right way — through legislation rather than an executive order that can be countermanded by the next Republican president. But I really have a problem with the rights of people being used as a bargaining chip in deal-making on Capitol Hill.
HT to Adam Serwer.