Reid Presses Obama and Gates on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Posted October 1, 2009 at 3:46pm

Proponents of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell— policy got a boost Thursday when it was revealed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent letters to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging them to weigh in on allowing openly gay men and women to serve.

“At a time when we are fighting two wars, I do not believe we can afford to discharge any qualified individual who is willing to serve our country,— Reid wrote in separate letters to Obama and Gates dated Sept. 24.

“As Congress considers future legislative action, we believe it would be helpful to hear your views on the policy,— Reid went on. “I would therefore request that you bring to Congress your recommendations.—

Reid said in July he supported a complete repeal of the military policy enacted under President Bill Clinton. Freshman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tried to tack an amendment to the Defense authorization bill in June that would have banned the policy, but it lacked the votes needed for passage.

While no Senator has come forward to introduce a bill ending the policy outright, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq War veteran, has taken the lead in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she supports repealing the policy, but hasn’t given any timeline on when it might happen. Reid has insisted the House act first on the issue.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Thursday his panel would convene a hearing on the matter this fall, but he didn’t provide details on a date or possible witness list.

“I never favored the policy,— Levin said. “It’s important this policy change in a way that has acceptability in the military, which I think is possible.—