January 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Levin sets path for Senate consideration of “Don’t Ask”

(DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

A key Democratic lawmaker has made initial steps for Senate consideration of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including dedicating a portion of the defense budget hearing next week to the issue.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Thursday told DC Agenda he’s reserving a portion of the budget hearing next week for lawmakers to ask questions on the 1993 law banning gays from serving openly in the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen are set to testify at hearing, which is set for Tuesday.

“We’re going to have our hearing on the budget on Tuesday with Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen, and then after that hearing is over on Tuesday, we’re going to move to a hearing with Gates and Mullen on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Levin said.

Bryan Thomas, spokesperson for the Senate Armed Services Committee, later clarified that Levin’s plans means there “will be a separate DADT portion of the hearing following the budget” testimony.

“So it will be technically the same hearing but be in two portions,” Thomas said. “We’re working to get the amended notice out shortly.”

Levin also told DC Agenda that on Feb. 11, an “outside panel” will continue Senate consideration of the issue

“And then, a week later, approximately, on [Feb.] 11 … we will have the outside panel on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Levin said.

Thomas said he couldn’t yet say what the outside panel will be and said the Senate Armed Services Committee is still considering the issue.

“Generally these are outside experts, but I can’t say with any certainty what the makeup will be,” he said.

President Obama pledged during his State of the Union address on Wednesday that he would work this year with Congress and military leaders to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

UPDATE: The Senate Armed Services Committee issued an amended notice regarding the change in Tuesday’s hearing.

The hearing will take place in Room SD-G50 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Also the schedule has been determined for when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be considered and when other matters will be considered.

9:00 a.m.* – 12:00 p.m.:
To receive testimony in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2011, the Future Years Defense Program, the 2011 Quadrennial Defense Review, and the 2011 Missile Defense Review.

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.:
To receive testimony relating to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.*

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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