May 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
House committee ignores ‘Don’t Ask’ in defense markup (updated)

A House committee markup of major defense budget legislation took place on Wednesday with virtually no reference to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as anticipated by repeal supporters.

During the markup, the House Armed Services Committee considered its version of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill to provide funding for Pentagon programs.

Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is likely to be considered as part of the defense legislation as makes it way through Congress, the issue came up on Wednesday only briefly during House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton’s (D-Mo.) opening remarks.

Skelton said he made an agreement with ranking Republican Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) not to address the matter during the committee markup or to include it in his “chairman’s mark” for the legislation.

The chairman said the decision was in accordance with the wishes of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen to hold off on repeal until the study is complete.

“And you won’t find any mention of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Skelton said. “Mr. McKeon and I have spoken about this, we have agreed to support Adm. Mullen and Secretary Gates’ request for time to study the issue and we do not support this issue being raised during the markup.”

The lack of attention to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the House committee markup shouldn’t come as a surprise. Those pushing for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have said they didn’t feel they had the votes in committee and wanted to take up repeal when the bill comes to the House floor.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the markup on Wednesday “was not the time or forum to include the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

“The defense bill now moves to the House floor where we’ll work with our allies to offer an amendment on the floor and finally vote to end this terrible law,” Sarvis said.

House members are likely to vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” next week when the defense authorization bill reaches the floor. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), sponsor of standalone legislation in the House, presumably will submit the amendment to the floor.

Murphy and other repeal supporters have said they’re fairly confident the votes are present in the House for passage of the legislation.

Also next week, the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to consider “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as an amendment to its version of the defense legislation. Those working for repeal have said they’re a couple votes short of passage in this chamber, but are working to solidify more support.

Sarvis said the full effort of everyone seeking to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is necessary for repeal to happen this year.

“For repeal to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now, including the White House,” he said. “We are only a few days away from this historic vote.”

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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