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A Pentagon report reviewing the military’s ban on openly gay service members will be released Nov. 30, a day early, in an attempt to speed along hearings and allow the Senate to vote on a repeal before adjourning for the year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who has called on Congress to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell” — pushed to change the scheduled release from Dec. 1.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to hold hearings as soon as Dec. 2 on the Pentagon study, with Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among the potential witnesses. Both men have recommended that Congress overturn the law, which was enacted in 1993 under President Bill Clinton.
Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) predicted the hearings “will be a boost to the goal of passing a National Defense Authorization Act, including provisions related to repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to bring the defense bill up for a vote in December, when the Senate is expected to be in session for up to three weeks.
Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who both support repealing the ban, hailed the decision in a joint release late Sunday night. “We thank Secretary Gates for expediting the release of the report so that Congress will have as much time as possible to review the findings and proceed with repeal this year,” the duo said. “Secretary Gates’ decision to release the report early as we requested and Secretary Gates’ leadership calling for repeal are two more reasons why we think Congress can and should repeal this discriminatory policy now.”
Lieberman said last week that he expects at least 60 Senators to vote in favor of a defense authorization bill that includes the repeal during the lame-duck session. Senate Republicans blocked the defense bill and its repeal language from consideration in September, but Lieberman indicated there would be enough support to move forward after the Pentagon’s yearlong review is released.