While President Obama and most Democrats in Congress have voiced their support for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy on gays in the military, a few Senate Democrats are leaving open the option of voting against repeal. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia said Wednesday that members should examine the Pentagon’s DADT report, which is set to be released on December 1, before making a decision. “That was something of a frustration for me when they voted it out of full committee,” Webb told me outside a Democratic policy luncheon today at the Capitol. “I was the one Democrat who voted not to move forward until we had the study.”
"I think people need to separate the politics out of it," Webb continued. In September, Webb voted against a filibuster of the defense authorization bill--to which the repeal of DADT was attached--but it's not clear how Webb would vote if DADT repeal were brought to the floor as a stand-alone bill.
Though Harry Reid says he plans to bring up repeal of DADT for a vote, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, one of the three Democrats to vote against cloture on the military spending bill, is less sure about such a vote. “My guess is we won’t have a vote on it this year,” Pryor said. “My view is let the Pentagon go through their process. I know at some point we’re going to have to vote on it, but let it go through the process.”
Pryor said he is concerned about the number of issues that make repealing the policy more complex. “You get into housing issues, chaplain issues, there’s just a lot of of issues,” Pryor said. “Let’s give the military some time to work through some of those.”
Joe Manchin, the newly sworn-in senator from West Virginia, said he wants to make sure field commanders are involved in the discussion and left open the possibility he would vote against repeal. "They'll get me briefed on it more," Manchin said as he walked into the policy luncheon.
Other Senate Democrats await the Pentagon’s survey but have made up their minds about supporting repeal. “I want to wait and see the Pentagon report, but I’m for [repeal],” said Senator Mark Warner, also of Virginia.
“We try to take into consideration any voice in the military, but there’s a preponderance of voices to say that we ought to end the policy,” said Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey. “I think there’s a pretty strong consensus now both here in the Congress as well as across the country. I think it should move forward.”
Asked about recent comments by General James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps who voiced his concerns that repeal of the policy could aversely affect combat unit cohesion, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman said he respects the general but that this is a question of “what’s right” and “what’s best for our military.”
“Senator [Susan] Collins [R-Maine] and I went to Secretary Gates to ask to release this report because that will give us a better idea of what the preponderance of opinion is within the military,” Lieberman said. “It sounds from the leaks that an overwhelming majority said they have no problem with it. And once it’s decided, everybody will make it work. It’s just how the military is.”