A White House spokesperson has said the Obama administration will oppose any effort to strip pending defense budget legislation of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal provision amid reports that Senate leaders are discussing purging the provision from the bill.
“The White House opposes any effort to strip ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesperson, in a statement Monday.
On Sunday, reports emerged in The Advocate and the Wall Street Journal that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supporter of open service, has engaged in talks to move forward with the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill without the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language.
A Democratic aide, who spoke to the Blade on the condition of anonymity, said he’s heard talk about pushing forward with the legislation in the Senate without the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision.
“Chairman Levin is working with Sen. [John] McCain and the administration to potentially pass a version of the [defense authorization bill] that strips out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal provision,” the aide said. “As many people had warned the Administration repeatedly, the lame duck session will be inhospitable to passing controversial measures.”
The aide added that GOP obstructionism after its success on Election Day was “completely predictable”and said the decision to wait until lame duck session for action is “yet another case of the administration failing to fully push a pro-gay (and also pro-national security) measure.”
In a statement, Tara Andringa, spokesperson for Levin, confirmed the senator has been engaged in talks with both the Pentagon and McCain on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She said the Pentagon working group report was among the discussion topics with the Defense Department, but offered limited details on the discussions with McCain.
“Senator Levin has been discussing with the Defense Department when the report relating to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, due to the Secretary of Defense on December 1, will be made available to Congress and the public, and he has also been discussing with Senator McCain how to proceed.”
In a statement, Brooke Buchanan, a McCain spokesperson, also confirmed that discussions have taken place.
“Senator McCain continues to have discussions with Senator Levin regarding the National Defense Authorization Bill,” she said. “Among other concerns, the senator remains opposed to the inclusion of the provision repealing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he thinks “important conversations” are happening with regard to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but he doesn’t anything has been decided.
“I think Sen. McCain is trying to frame the debate and frame the message even before the lame duck session begins, but I don’t think any serious negotiations are underway,” Sarvis said.
Sarvis said he has “no doubt” that more than 60 senators will vote to bring the defense authorization bill with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language to the Senate floor, but added support from the White House and Defense Secretary Robert Gates is necessary to “ensure success.”