In a major breakthrough just in time to energize the Democratic voter base for the fall, the White House has given its blessing to a compromise repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. The measure, which could face a vote this week, would allow the Pentagon to move forward with its review of the best way to end the Clinton-era policy.
The change would come in the form of an amendment to the defense spending measure, a process which the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said late last night it will support. The Pentagon also backs using this method while it completes the review, OMB Director Peter Orszag said in a letter to Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is working on the issue on the Senate side. Orszag said the amendment would allow for “comprehensive review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.” Democrats on the Hill accepted the compromise last night.[TPM SLIDESHOW: GAY RIGHTS MARCH IN WASHINGTON]
The new agreement comes following a private White House meeting for gay rights groups and after months of protests that included Lt. Dan Choi chaining himself to the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to draw attention to the sluggish pace of President Obama’s promise to repeal the policy. Sen. Carl Levin told TPMDC yesterday that the White House came around “in the last few days.”
The Associated Press reports that Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, is expected to introduce the legislative proposal Tuesday, with a vote possible as early as Thursday. Republicans say they’ll fight the proposal. Murphy (D-PA) on Monday sent the White House a letter from military leaders citing a Gallup poll from earlier this month showing 70 percent of Americans favor overturning the ban.
As we have reported, most Americans want the policy dropped, though the wording of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” question influences how people respond to pollsters. Young vets from the two current wars are more supportive of ending the ban.