Washington (CNSNews.com) – In the lame duck session of Congress, which follows the Nov. 2 elections to when the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2011, President Barack Obama will push the Senate to pass a bill that includes an amendment to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allow homosexuality in the U.S. armed forces, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
While “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) is a directive in Defense Department rules, it stems from a federal law (10 U.S.C. 654) enacted by Congress in 1993, which prohibits homosexuals from serving in the military. Under DADT, military officials are not supposed to ask, and soldiers are not supposed to disclose whether they are homosexual.
The House passed a Defense bill in May that includes an amendment that would repeal most elements of 10 U.S.C. 654 and thereby allow the Defense Department to eliminate the DADT policy. That bill must be passed by the Senate, however, and then signed by the president to become law.
Gibbs said President Obama plans to lobby for the bill’s passage in the lame duck session, the same Congress where Democrats (and two Independents) hold a 59-seat majority in the Senate.
“The president believes the policy will end under his watch precisely because in the Defense authorization bill pending in the Senate is a provision that would repeal what the president believes is unjust, what the president believes is discriminatory,” Gibbs said on Tuesday. “It’s passed the House. The president will push for the Defense authorization to be passed containing that provision when the Senate comes back in the lame duck.”
In the lame duck session, members of Congress voted out of office in November can still vote on controversial bills without being accountable to the voters again.
“My sense is, if you can get it through a filibuster – again, everything takes 60 votes these days – that there are a majority of senators who believe as the president does that this policy is unjust and that it harms our national security,” said Gibbs. “So, the president will work during the lame duck to see what has passed the House, will pass the Senate to end up on his desk for a signature.”
Gibbs said that Republicans should be hesitant to block the passage of an entire Defense authorization bill because they disagree with one provision, the federal law banning homosexuals from serving in the military.
“If we can get past the procedural hurdles, the majority of the U.S. Senate believes as the president does,” Gibbs said. “I think you can go back in time to Republican quotes about the harm of not passing a Defense authorization bill and ensuring that we have the necessary resources for our military to do what it needs to do.”
Last week in San Diego, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that 10 U.S.C. 654 was unconstitutional and directed the government to suspend the DADT policy. The Justice Department, under its obligation to defend existing law, has appealed Judge Phillips’ decision.
President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen have formally called for changing the policy to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military.
The Pentagon is set to complete a study in December on the issue with suggestions on how to implement the policy without causing disruptions.