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Pentagon Report Sets Stage for DADT Hearings

Tuesday’s release of a Pentagon review of the military’s ban on openly gay service members did not immediately translate into action on Capitol Hill, where Senate Democrats are struggling to carve out floor time to debate such a proposal.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) emerged from the caucus lunch Tuesday maintaining that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring the repeal up for a vote before the end of the year, but he did not have details on when that might be.

“It’s up to him to make that decision,” Levin said about the timing of the vote. “He’s going to do it. The question is when.”

Reid told reporters that he would bring up the defense authorization bill, which contains language to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, after the Armed Services panel hears testimony this week on the Pentagon report. The House passed a defense authorization that includes repeal language in May.

Republicans want to ensure they will have ample debate time. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) supports overturning the ban; nonetheless, she joined her GOP colleagues to block the measure from coming to the floor in September. She cited Reid’s limitations on amendments and debate time as the reasons for her protest vote, and she said Monday night that she has not received any indications that more floor time will be carved out in the coming weeks for the debate that she seeks.

The Pentagon on Tuesday released its yearlong survey of service members on a potential DADT repeal. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they believed the effect of allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve in the military would be either positive, mixed or nonexistent. The Defense Department also released an 87-page plan describing how to implement a repeal of the 1993 law enacted under President Bill Clinton.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that the report proves that DADT “is damaging to our national security” and should therefore be repealed.

“Men and women, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation, who are willing to fight and defend our country should be allowed to do so without fear of discrimination,” they said in the joint statement. “We will continue to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ this year.”

Gay rights groups similarly hailed the report and called on the Senate to act. In a statement, President Barack Obama noted, “This report also confirms that, by every measure — from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness — we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will offer testimony on the Pentagon report Thursday to the Armed Services Committee, along with Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel, and Army Gen. Carter Ham. The next day, the committee is scheduled to hear testimony from Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. Both have expressed concerns about overturning DADT.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the Armed Services panel, has similarly questioned whether DADT should be repealed and has maintained the Senate should review the Pentagon study and listen to the testimony of top military officials before taking any action.

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in an e-mail that the Senator’s “staff are currently in the process of carefully reviewing the Pentagon’s report regarding the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Law.” 

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