Rep Duncan Hunter, who has been a vocal opponent of repealing the military’s ban on openly gay service personnel, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), has reportedly written a letter to President Obama urging him to hold off on repeal certification. This follows a recent AP interview implying that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is willing to certify the repeal before he leaves his post at June’s close.
This is not the first attempt by Republican lawmakers to slow the repeal.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a last minute amendment to the DADT repeal bill itself in December. The amendment was designed to require all four service chiefs to certify the change where only the signatures of the defense secretary, the joint chiefs chairman and the president are currently required.
In so doing, McConnell knew that at least two service chiefs opposed the repeal — though they have since testified to confirm that training on DADT repeal seems to have precipitated little resistance in the ranks. This could have stalled the retiring of the policy indefinitely however, perhaps recognizing Senate lawmakers would never agree to this amendment, it was quickly withdrawn.
Rep. Duncan Hunter then chose the House’s debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 to resurrect the amendment, which was duly passed in May.
The Senate, with its slim Democratic majority and bipartisan support for the repeal, seems unlikely to pass similar language, but if used as part of a bargaining tool it may be a possibility, albeit a slim one.
The bill will most likely require President Obama’s signature. Following the passage of the House version of the NDAA, a White House spokesperson said that Obama opposed any attempt at slowing down the repeal. He has not said he would veto the NDAA based on the amendment to slow the repeal being attached however.
This, of course, is redundant if, as Gates is said to have indicated, the military is ready for the repeal by or around the end of June because the process of wrangling over and reconciling the NDAA will not be completed by Congress until the fall, should the final bill even contain Rep. Hunter’s amendment, and certification will have come too soon to slow — something Rep. Hunter and cohorts must be aware of with this attempt to appeal directly to the president.
And it does seem that certification is within reach. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said this week in an interview with David Letterman that certification would “certainly” go ahead within the next two months. He also had a frank assessment of opposition to the repeal that, while there may be those that opposed it, the U.S. Army has by its nature followed changes in the law. The law has now changed, he said, and “we will follow this law, and I think it will be fine.”
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