May 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Sanchez: House considering delayed ‘Don’t Ask’ measure

House lawmakers are weighing the possibility of passing delayed implementation legislation as a way to accomplish repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year, according to an opponent of the law in Congress.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) — a co-sponsor of repeal legislation in the House and member of the House Armed Services Committee — told the Blade in a brief exchange Wednesday that among the options House members are considering is a measure Congress would pass this year that wouldn’t stop discharges in the U.S. military until later.

Asked whether lawmakers are discussing such a measure as an amendment to pending defense authorization legislation for the Pentagon’s budget, Sanchez replied, “We’re certainly looking at that.”

Sanchez said H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act — standalone legislation sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) that would overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — may not be the legislation that comes to the House floor.

“I could see, for example, something close to Mr. Murphy’s bill, but with maybe a time from not starting for another nine months in anticipation of the report supposedly — or the study that is being done by the military,” she said.

Sanchez said several amendments relating to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may come before the Rules Committee — the necessary step for bringing an amendment to the floor in the House — and a delayed implementation measure could be one among several.

Supporters of repeal in the LGBT community have been pressing for such legislation as a compromise measure to bring on board Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who wrote in an April 30 letter that he would “strongly oppose” legislative action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the Pentagon completes its study on the issue at the end of the year.

On the Senate side, Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reportedly expressed support on Monday for delayed implementation legislation as a way to move forward following the publication of this letter.

“What we ought to do is repeal it, but make the effective date after the report,” Levin said, according to Roll Call newspaper.

Anticipating a House vote on defense authorization legislation in the coming weeks, Sanchez said supporters of repeal in Congress are “looking for the votes” to an end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of this larger bill.

She said she’s not expecting a vote on the House Armed Services Committee when the panel takes up the legislation next week, but a vote later when the bill comes to the House floor.

“We don’t have the votes in the committee on the Democratic side to enable to put this [through],” she said. “It won’t be in the chairman’s mark in the full committee. We don’t have votes in the full committee.”

Sanchez said supporters are “counting the votes for the House floor” in hopes of finding sufficient support to “show leadership that, if in fact we have the votes, they may allow us an amendment on the House floor.”

“I don’t even know if we will move something forward,” she said. “It all depends if we can get it through Rules and what that will look like, but certainly there are plenty of us who have had many discussions about how we try to move this issue.”

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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