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Frank: Democrats Punting on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Until 2010

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Thursday that Democratic leaders won’t push to repeal the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell— policy governing gay service in the military until 2010.

“I believe we should and will do Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ next year,— said Frank, a co-chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equality Caucus. “We haven’t done the preliminary work, the preparatory work. It would be a mistake to bring it up without a lot of lobbying and a lot of conversation.—

Frank, who is one of three openly gay House Members, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “always has been— in support of waiting to move the issue next year. He said Democratic leaders will likely push a free-standing bill in early 2010.

“We don’t even know the votes in committee, let alone the votes on the floor. … So I think the prediction it will not happen in calendar year 2009 is probably accurate,— said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who is also openly gay and a co-chairwoman of the LGBT Caucus.

News of the delay comes as one advocacy group, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, is launching “a major offensive— next week to urge President Barack Obama to immediately repeal the 1993 policy, according to an e-mail sent Thursday by the group.

“The logical place and time for presidential leadership on this issue is next month, when President Obama sends his defense budget to Congress. President Obama should cut Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from his budget. It costs money to fire and replace discharged service members,— the e-mail states.

SLDN advocates warn that if Obama doesn’t use the defense budget to repeal the policy, “he will be effectively approving — on his watch — the firing of gays and lesbians from the military. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will then become his law, his albatross.—

But Frank said repealing the policy — which prevents gays from openly serving in the military — by attaching an amendment to the defense budget “doesn’t make sense,— even though it is procedurally possible to take that approach.

That approach is being put forward by people “who don’t understand the best way to get it done,— Frank said. “People have to understand the political pressures.—

While it may have made sense in the past to try to repeal the policy in the defense budget since former President George W. Bush would have vetoed a free-standing bill, Frank said that tack doesn’t make sense now since Obama supports a repeal.

“People think because they know the rules, that somehow you gain some advantage from it. … But we all know the rules; the question is when to do it. The key issues are not procedural, it’s political,— said the Massachusetts Democrat.

Frank’s advice to proponents of the repeal is to lobby House Members and Senators to get behind it, “so that when we bring it up next year, we’ll have the votes.—

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