Senate Democrats Push For 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal
H: NPR's David Welna has the story.
DAVID WELNA: At the time, he insisted he was not opposed to a full debate in the Senate on whether to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
JOHN MCCAIN: What I am opposed to is bringing up the defense bill now before the Defense Department has concluded its survey of our men and women in uniform, which gives them a chance to tell us their views about Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
WELNA: Since then, the study has been completed and the Washington Post has reported the survey found more than two out of three service members said allowing gays to serve openly in the military would either be positive or cause no harm. In an interview before leaving Washington last week, McCain derided the same Pentagon study he'd earlier advocated.
MCCAIN: It's a bogus study. The study was - should have been to assess the impact on morale and battle effectiveness and retention of repeal. The study actually, the words as I read, were how to implement the repeal.
WELNA: But one of the Pentagon's study's co-authors told the Armed Services Committee last week it was not only, as McCain contends, about how to implement a repeal, Army General Carter Ham said he'd also received precise instructions from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
CARTER HAM: To assess the impacts upon effectiveness, readiness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, should repeal occur.
WELNA: In a testy exchange with General Ham at the hearing, McCain raised questions about the massive survey gauging service members' views on a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
MCCAIN: The survey went out to 400,000 military personnel, is that correct?
HAM: That's correct, senator.
MCCAIN: And how many - what percent responded?
HAM: Senator McCain, we received a little over 115,000 responses.
MCCAIN: Like 25 percent?
HAM: A little more - about 28, sir.
WELNA: Do you plan to block this from being considered?
MCCAIN: Of course.
WELNA: Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman is the chief sponsor of the repeal measure. He's also a close friend of McCain's. He says he's tried changing his friend's mind on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
JOE LIEBERMAN: I've had discussions. I've had no success. It's as simple as that.
WELNA: But Lieberman says some Senate Republicans are willing now to let the defense bill come up for consideration. One of them is Maine's Susan Collins. She says she'll do so if the majority leader allows both a full debate on the bill and amendments to its provisions, including the repeal.
SUSAN COLLINS: So far, however, Senator Reid has not indicated a willingness to allow the kind of traditional consideration of the defense bill that we have always had in the Senate.
WELNA: New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen considers such demands sabotage.
JEANNE SHAHEEN: This is not about how many amendments are we going to do or how long we're going to debate; this is about those who oppose this policy wanting to kill it and taking every opportunity they can and using the Senate rules to try and do that.
WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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