Key Senate Committee Approves "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

Supporters of repealing the military's policy of gays serving quietly in the military, called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) scored a major victory in a key Senate committee Thursday on a near party line vote.

By a vote of 16-12, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to quash the Clinton-era policy once the military completes a survey of men and women in the military and with the express certification from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there will be no adverse affect on the troops and military readiness by the reversal of policy.

All but one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted against the repeal.   Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia was the one Democrat to oppose the measure.

"I think it's quite frankly a little disrespectful of the people who are serving to move before the survey came in," Webb told reporters afterward.   "The White House said...they would prefer to have the survey completed before legislation passed.  (Defense) Secretary Gates said it. All four of the Armed Services chiefs said it," Webb noted, adding, "I think there's going to be people on active duty who feel they've been cut out of the process. I just don't think this is the proper way to move fwd, although I'm pretty empathetic to situation people are facing."

When asked if the trigger mechanism embedded in the legislation provided some measure of comfort, Webb shot back, "We all know that's not how it works. If you repeal a law before you decide to examine the issue. There's a proper way and the leaders of the military knew the proper way."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-CT, lead author of the repeal measure, said the fix is not in, the repeal is not necessarily a done deal.

"The vote today I think was a vote for a principle and a policy that the DADT policy doesn’t serve the best interest of our military and doesn’t represent the best values of our country," Lieberman said.  "Secretary Gates has appointed this working group really to determine how DADT will be repealed, not whether."

The review is expected to be completed on December 1.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, D-MI, noted the "carefully thought-out study," saying, "That's essentially what we put our stamp of approval on today is the kind of decision that should be repealed but withholding the effective date of any repeal until after that study is finished, plus, after the certification by the top military officer that there will be no negative impact on morale or on readiness."

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, top Republican on the committee, did not agree and voted against the final defense spending bill, to which the repeal is now attached, saying, "We are shutting out the men and women of the military by making this into law before the men and women in the military have made their input...This action cuts the men and women in the military completely out of the process. This is an all volunteer force."

The Senate is expected to take up the entire defense spending bill, with the repeal, this summer.