November 29, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Obama meets with Joint Chiefs on ‘Don’t Ask’

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed on Monday that President Obama met with the Joint Chiefs on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a planned topic of discussion on Monday during a meeting between President Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the White House.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday confirmed that Obama was meeting the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Oval Office to discuss “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Pentagon report on the matter.

“I think the president right now is in the Oval Office meeting with the Joint Chiefs about the issue and about the report,” Gibbs said in response to questioning from the Blade. “We look forward to the presentation by [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Adm. [Mike] Mullen tomorrow and then their testimony later in the week.”

Gibbs said he believes the president has seen “parts of” the report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which is due for release Tuesday. Still, Gibbs said he would need to double-check whether Obama has indeed seen the study and doesn’t “want to ahead of” the release of report “in terms of commenting.”

In February, Mullen testified before the Senate that he favors allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. But the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force have said they oppose legislative action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the Pentagon completes its report. New Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has said he continues to oppose an end to the military’s gay ban.

Support for repeal from the service chiefs could be key in moving several fence-sitting senators to back an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although Gibbs has previously hinted he doesn’t think unanimous agreement among the chiefs is essential to moving forward.

Asked on Monday whether the president attempted during the Oval Office meeting to get the service chiefs to support repeal in lame duck, Gibbs said he’d supply the Blade a readout of the discussion later.

One question remains on when the Senate will schedule a floor vote on major defense legislation that includes language for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has committed to holding a vote on the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, but hasn’t yet announced a date for scheduling the motion to proceed.

Jim Manley, a Reid spokesperson, told the Blade on Monday morning there’s “nothing new yet” with regard to when the majority leader would schedule a vote on the defense authorization bill.

The majority leader is likely to bring up the legislation following Senate hearings this week on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” report.

A number of key senators have said they wouldn’t vote to move forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in lame duck unless Senate leadership sets up a more open amendment process on the defense authorization bill than what was proposed during an earlier failed attempt at bringing the legislation to the floor in September.

Reid has said he wouldn’t bring up the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill during lame duck and would instead bring up the immigration-related legislation as a standalone measure. Still, a number of senators have said a more open amendment process is a condition for their vote in ending the filibuster on the motion to proceed.

Gibbs noted decisions have already made with some amendments and that the DREAM Act has been taken off the table as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

“Obviously, I think they have made some decisions about some amendments, and some amendments that have been taken out and voted on separately,” Gibbs said. “I think we just talked about that in terms of the DREAM Act.”

Gibbs said he’d have to speak with the White House Office of Legislative Affairs on whether the president has given Senate leadership any guidance on handling the defense authorization bill when it comes up again during the lame duck session.

Asked whether the president believes the amendment process in September was fair, Gibbs reiterated the president’s commitment to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislatively.

“I think the president strongly believed that this was an issue that can, should — can and should be solved legislatively, encouraged the Senate to act legislatively on the defense authorization bill, and, particularly, changing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Gibbs said. “That’s our position now and I don’t anticipate that the release of the report will do anything but strengthen that case.”

Watch a video of the questioning here (via Think Progress):

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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