U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday reiterated her prediction that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be a memory by the year’s end — despite the failure of the Senate last week to move forward with repeal legislation — as she maintained the president has the ability to stop troop discharges without a change in law.
Asked by a reporter whether she’s spoken with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about the Senate taking another shot at “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Pelosi replied, “That will be gone by executive — that will happen with or without Congress.”
“I don’t think it has to depend on whether it passes the Senate,” she continued. “The process will work its way through and the president will make his pronouncement.”
The speaker spoke to reporters after she gave a speech at the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Awards at the W Hotel, which was hosted by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
During her speech, Pelosi made similar assurances and promised that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be “gone by the end of the year.”
“Some are here tonight who serve in the military,” she said. “God bless you for your courage and your patriotism. … But because of courage of some of them, this will be gone by the end of the year.”
Pelosi previously predicted in May that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be “a memory” by the end of this year during an interview with the Hill newspaper.
Speaking to reporters, Pelosi said Congress got the ball rolling on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to get lawmakers on record on the issue and so the change would be “in statute and all of that.”
The House in May passed an amendment that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.
“But even the bill that we passed said that it was contingent upon the recommendation of the president’s … review,” she said. “The only difference would be statute versus the president [making a policy change.]”
Pressed on whether she thinks the executive branch would ultimately be responsible for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Pelosi replied, “That’s where it was anyway.”
“Others wanted to have more, so we tried to do more,” she said. “We’ll work very closely to try to see what happens after the election.”
Pelosi has previously said President Obama can issue an executive order to stop discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” without action from Congress.
Supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal have been calling on Obama since the beginning of his administration to issue an order to stop the discharges under the law, but the president hasn’t taken such action.
Asked whether she would call on Obama to issue an order to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Pelosi replied, “That is the unfolding that we will see.”
“I’m very pleased with the course that the president’s on, but I think that they we shouldn’t be discharging people until that happens — so that, we have a little separation of — in terms of policy on that,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi added House members who support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal were “very disappointed” the Senate didn’t have sufficient votes to end a filibuster on moving forward with legislation that would end the law.
“In the Senate, the Republicans held up the bill entirely so it couldn’t even be considered, so it was very disappointing,” she said. “They went really out of their way to try to block this.”
Pelosi also reiterated her position that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act wouldn’t see a House vote until legislative action is complete on repealing the 1993 law barring open service in the U.S. military.
“I told everyone that right from the start — that if we want to go down the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ route, then we’d have to put ENDA in a different place,” she said.
Pelosi said initial plans for the 111th Congress were to take on hate crimes protections legislation followed by ENDA and then “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But she said the House ended up acting on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” first before ENDA because there was “a lot of enthusiasm about changing the order.”
During her speech, Pelosi maintained the importance of the mid-term elections and said “the fabric of our middle class and strength of our democracy” is at stake.
Pelosi added that the election results will also “accelerate the pace of passing ENDA or set us back.”
The speaker said she believes the votes are in the U.S. House to pass ENDA, but expressed concern about a motion to recommit that could derail the bill.
The motion to recommit is a legislative manuever that opponents of ENDA could use to scuttle the bill when it comes to the House floor.
“I think we have the votes for it, but we have to resist the motion to recommit,” Pelosi said. “We can’t pass the bill unless we can resist all of the bad things that they could do to the bill along the way.”
Also speaking at the event were gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
During his speech, Frank emphasized the importance of keeping a Democratic majority in the next Congress and questioned those who would criticize lawmakers who support LGBT rights for the lack of progress on pro-LGBT bills.
“I understand people being unhappy about that,” he said. “What I do not understand is people who think that the way to respond to the fact that we weren’t able to get things done is further to empower the people who kept us from getting them done.”
Frank urged attendees to “bitch and fight” all the way to the polls to re-elect a Democratic majority in the U.S. House because Pelosi has been such a strong supporter of LGBT rights.
“Neither Tammy, nor I, nor anybody else has ever had to ask for her to support us,” Frank said. “We take that for granted and she has been the been the single most important public official in the history of the United States to be fully committed to our agenda not just as a matter of support, but as matter of her own personal involvement.”