WASHINGTON – A Republican senator on Sunday played down the chances that the ban on gays serving openly in the military would be lifted during the lame-duck session of Congress that resumes this week.
While the House has already voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he didn't see the effort to end the ban as having enough Republican supporters in the Senate.
"I think in a lame-duck setting, 'don't ask, don't tell' is not going anywhere," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."
President Barack Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to seek repeal of the law allowing gays to serve in the military forces as long as they don't reveal their sexual orientation. Under the law, military officials are not allowed to inquire about sexual orientation.
The effort to repeal the ban on gays serving openly would face far more difficult votes in the Congress set to convene in January. Republicans would be in the majority in the House, and the Democratic majority in the Senate would narrow to a handful of seats.
Earlier this year Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested a study on how lifting the ban would affect the armed forces and could be carried out. He has ordered the release of the study on Tuesday, and the Senate Armed Services Committee plans hearings Thursday and Friday.
Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, support ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Mullen, who has said he favored the lame-duck Congress taking action if that would be the fastest way to repeal the ban, said he believed that asking people to lie about themselves went against the integrity of the armed forces.
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, has said the policy shouldn't be lifted in wartime, arguing that openly gay troops could disrupt the cohesion of combat units.
A Pentagon survey of troops taken over the summer as part of the Gates-ordered study was expected to show that some 70 percent of respondents say that lifting the ban would have a positive or mixed effect, or none at all, according to officials familiar with the findings. The survey also found pockets of resistance among combat troops.
In Sunday news show appearances, Graham and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., contended that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was not a problem for the military and that lifting it was being pursued because of Obama's campaign promise.
"This was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States," McCain said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability, so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false," McCain said. "So the fact is that this system is working."
McCain called for assessing the impact on morale and battlefield effectiveness of lifting the ban, "not on how best to implement a change in policy."