Senate committee and House approve compromise on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 today to pass a compromise that will probably lead to repeal of the prohibition on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote for the compromise. Jim Webb of Virginia was the only Democrat to vote against it. I wouldn’t have predicted that Webb would vote no when people like Evan Bayh, Robert Byrd and Ben Nelson voted yes.

This bill appears to have the votes to pass on the Senate floor. Representative Patrick Murphy (an Iraq War veteran) is offering a comparable amendment to the Defense Authorization bill in the House. Technically, it’s not correct to call this a “repeal” of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, because the legislation allows officials at the White House, Pentagon and Joint Chiefs to leave the policy in place. Here’s what will happen if the amendment makes it into the final bill passed by the House and Senate:

When the President signs the Department of Defense Authorization bill into law, DADT will not instantly be repealed. Repeal would take place only after the study group completes its work in December 2010 and after the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense all certify that repeal will not hurt military readiness or unit cohesion.

So, gay and lesbian soldiers will continue to be discharged several months (and perhaps several years) from now. Still, I agree with Adam Bink; this has to be viewed as a “giant step” toward taking Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell off the books. Ideally, Congress would have passed stronger legislation, but I’d rather have them pass this deal now than shoot for something better next year. If Republicans took control of the House or Senate, we’d have no hope of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for a long time.

Iowa’s senators don’t have seats on the Armed Services Committee, but Tom Harkin is expected to support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Chuck Grassley opposes moving forward on this issue until the Pentagon has completed its review of the policy, and it sounds like even if the report recommends repeal, Grassley is a likely no vote: “I’m going to be listening to see what it does for readiness and our national security. Because we’ve had the policy in place for 18 years… and it seems to have worked and not affected the readiness.”

Senator, that policy didn’t work so well for “over 13,500 well trained, able-bodied soldiers willing to take a bullet for their country” who have been “kicked out of the military simply because they were gay.”

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: The House passed the amendment 234 to 194 tonight, with five Republicans voting yes and 26 Democrats voting no. I will post a link to the roll call when it’s available, but I think all three Iowa Democrats voted yes. Leonard Boswell’s statement on why he supports repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is after the jump.

UPDATE: Here is the House roll call. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack did vote yes, along with most of the Democratic caucus. Tom Latham and Steve King voted no, with almost all the House Republicans.

Boswell Releases Statement on Support for the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy in Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Leonard Boswell released this statement following his vote to repeal the Department of Defense’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy after the Department has completed their ongoing internal review; prepared policies and regulations, and repeal is consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.

“After serving 20 years in the military, including two tours of combat in Vietnam, I support the repeal of the ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy. During my Army career, I served alongside great men and women who, regardless of sexual orientation, were courageous military leaders that I trusted with my life and the lives of the troops under my command. The character and strength of a solider is reliant on their courage, loyalty, honor, and ability to do their job – not their sexuality.”

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