May 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Pelosi: 'Don't Ask' compromise 'respectful' of review

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she thinks the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise is “respectful” of the Pentagon review process underway while at the same time providing a path where gay, lesbian, bisexual service members can serve openly in the U.S. military.

In a response to a reporter’s question during her weekly press conference, Pelosi quoted congressional testimony from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen in which he said repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is “the right thing to do.” Pelosi said she shares that belief.

She added the compromise legislation unveiled earlier this week, which wouldn’t end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute until after the Pentagon study is complete at the end of the year, was a compromise “worked out with the White House.”

“It doesn’t repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” she said. “It defers to when that report comes forth and then we repeal it.”

The amendment to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), is poised to come to the House floor this week when lawmakers take up the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

The repeal measure, Pelosi said, is “respectful” of the Pentagon working group, which she said is “speaking at all levels of the military across the country in anticipation of how we should move forward.”

“This is about national security and morale of our troops, unit cohesion, all of those things,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi added she thinks she has support for a successful vote, although it wasn’t immediately clear whether she was referring to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” amendment or the defense budget legislation as a whole.

The transcript of the exchange follows:

Q: On repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are you satisfied with the compromise that was developed with the White House about this and a lot of the members … are saying this could be a very tough vote for them in vulnerable conservative districts. There’s a possibility of Ike Skelton even not supporting final passage of this bill if this repeal amendment is in there.

Do you have the votes? Do you worry about making your members taking another tough vote this election year?

Pelosi: I want to just quote Adm. Mullen because I was so inspired by his remarks: “Allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military is the right thing to do. We have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals, ours as an institution.”

It is the right thing to do. And the legislation — the compromise that was worked out with the White House is respectful of the fact that there is a review going on speaking at all levels to the military across the country in anticipation about how we should move forward. … This is about national security and morale of our troops, unit cohesion, all of those things.

This amendment today is respectful of that. It doesn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It defers to when that report comes forth and then we repeal it.

Q: Do you have the votes?

Pelosi: Oh, I think the voters are there.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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