An Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Cotton made the remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when host Chuck Todd asked the Arkansas Republican where he stands on the issue.
“Waiting for Jim Mattis’ report,” Cotton replied. “You know, it’s going to come out early next year. He has since said no one serving in the military will be removed from the military. He’s going to make the assessment. I think it’s worthwhile to make that assessment. Just like Bob Gates went through more than a year of analysis in 2009, 2010, rather than making a precipitous change.”
Pressed on whether he’d have a problem serving alongside someone who’s transgender, Cotton declined to answer, saying he never made inquiries to his comrades about their gender identity.
“I don’t know,” Cotton said. “I didn’t go around asking them that. Just like I might have served with a gay or lesbian soldier as well.”
With Defense Secretary James Mattis’s study due to President Trump on Feb. 21, Cotton said his priority is military readiness — a quality that proponents of transgender military service say would be strengthened if transgender people were allowed to serve.
“But what we have to focus on is the readiness of our forces and the readiness of individual units and individual soldiers,” Cotton said. “And make sure that they are prepared to fight and win our country’s wars.”
Cotton deferred to the upcoming report when asked he has any sense transgender troops are unable to meet standards for the U.S. military.
“I think we have to wait for Jim Mattis’ report,” Cotton said. “Just like Bob Gates went through a very thorough review and made this assessment. But I want to make sure that the focus in our military is preparing our soldiers to fight and win our wars.”
Cotton declines to weigh in on transgender military service days after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (-D-N.Y.) introduced bipartisan legislation against Trump’s transgender military ban. Among the co-sponsors are Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who have both declared support for allowing transgender troops to serve.
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