May 15, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
White House objects to ‘Don’t Ask’ amendment in defense bill

The White House issued a statement objecting to legislation interfering with 'Don't Ask' repeal (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The White House has issued a statement saying it has “serious objections” to any legislative attempt to alter the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal process following the advancement of a measure that could disrupt the established path for bringing the military’s gay ban to an end.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, issued the statement in response to the House version of defense budget legislation, which has a provision that would mandate input from the four military service chiefs to enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

The House bill would alter the repeal law signed into law in December allowing for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. The law allows for open service after 60 days pass following certification from the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The president has been clear repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will occur as soon as possible, consistent with the standards set forth in the repeal bill,” Inouye said. “The president is working with the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to certify, pursuant to the repeal bill, that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the department is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces.”

But the provision in the House version of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill would expand the certification requirement to include input from the uniform chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The House Armed Services Committee adopted the provision after Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) introduced the measure as an amendment.

Inouye said the White House doesn’t support any provision that would interfere with the repeal process set up by the law President Obama signed late last year.

“We have serious objections to any amendment that would unnecessarily delay this process,” Inouye said.

The Republican-controlled House will likely pass the defense authorization bill as a whole along the provision when the larger measure reaches the floor. A vote on the legislation could happen as soon as the week of May 23.

A spokesperson for Rep. Duncan Hunter said the White House objection to the 'Don't Ask' is not surprising (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Joe Kasper, a Hunter spokesperson, said the White House statement is “not much of a surprise” and called on the Obama administration to drop its objection to expanding the certification requirement for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“If the White House is so sure that the military leadership is behind the repeal, then there’s nothing to worry about,” Kasper said. “The White House’s statement just shows how unsure the administration really is with all this. And there’s always lots of talk about transparency and efficiency. So perhaps the administration will rethink it’s position and support the Hunter amendment.”

Although the committee adopted the amendment as part of defense authorization, passing such a provision into law would be challenging because the Democratic-controlled Senate would have to agree to it during conference negotiations before the measure would even reach President Obama’s desk.

Further, defense officials have testified that certification could happen mid-summer, and the final version of the defense authorization will likely not reach the president’s desk until after that time, rendering Hunter’s provision useless.

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

1 Comment
  • “If the White House is so sure that the military leadership is behind the repeal, then there’s nothing to worry about,” Kasper said. “The White House’s statement just shows how unsure the administration really is with all this. And there’s always lots of talk about transparency and efficiency. So perhaps the administration will rethink it’s position and support the Hunter amendment.”

    Really Mr. Kasper? If you think it’s weak that the White House doesn’t want to allow the heads the right to choose themselves, maybe you should compare this to any other civil rights violations of that the nation’s approved before it was forcibly squashed in order to promote civil rights. If we let the leaders who said they approved of anti-slavery choose as the times changed whether they’d actually abolish slavery or not, then we’d have a lot of people who could’ve changed their minds–and slavery’d still be here today. The White House is putting a stronghold down, which can be seen as a force that won’t reflect our nation’s philosophy–yes–it could be forcing people to deal with something they dislike or feel is immoral; but, it’s also to proof against intolerance as well. If we allow folks to continue to ignore what’s right around them and dismiss it as wrong then we’re saying it’s right to exclude members of our society despite its abundance and its being natural. I suppose, ultimately, that’s what the debate is over–will we continue to exclude members of society because we disagree and disapprove of their recognizing and living by their natural selves, or will we squash that out instead and accept what’s around us and not going anywhere.

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