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Lieberman Unveils ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) unveiled legislation Wednesday that would repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members, a rule that he charged was “inconsistent with our values and diminishes our military readiness.”

“It is the American military that works the most to protect our values,” Lieberman said, calling it a “powerful irony” that service members are discharged based on their sexual orientation.

“Repealing the current policy will allow more patriotic Americans to defend our national security and live up to our nation’s founding values of freedom and opportunity,” he said.

Lieberman acknowledged during a heavily attended press conference that his bill does not have the support of 60 Senators, and has no GOP co-sponsors. But Lieberman said there is a “core group” of Republicans considering the legislation, and that he expects the bill to pass by the end of the year.

Republicans and some moderate Democrats have said they do not want to take action until a yearlong Pentagon review into the effects of rolling back the policy is completed. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the newest member of the Armed Services panel and a potential target for Democrats, echoed that sentiment on Wednesday.

“I’m interested to hear what generals on the ground have to say,” Brown said when asked if he would support Lieberman’s bill.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said his committee could include a moratorium on DADT in the defense authorization bill as a stopgap before taking up legislation that would implement a full repeal. That idea was panned by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the panel’s ranking member.

“That would be in my view a very, very serious course of action that would negate the policy,” McCain said. “I think it would be a mistake.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) is the chief sponsor of House legislation to end the policy implemented in 1993 under President Bill Clinton. Lieberman, tapped by the White House to lead the issue in the Senate, said he hopes his bill sees floor action by the end of the year.

Levin also announced Wednesday that the committee will hear testimony on the matter at a March 18 hearing.

Last month, the committee heard testimony on the issue from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During that hearing, Mullen told lawmakers, “Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

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