BY Kerry Eleveld
January 05 2010 7:05 PM ET
The likelihood of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” this year may hinge on whether the Department of Defense includes the policy change in the budget recommendations it sends to Capitol Hill every spring.
“If repeal looks as though it’s happening because the military is asking for it, then it has the greatest likelihood of succeeding,” said Dixon Osburn, cofounder and former executive director of the repeal lobby group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
One Capitol Hill veteran, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that a Pentagon endorsement could hold particular sway in the Senate, the most problematic chamber. “If it’s in the DOD authorization, not a single Democratic senator has said they would vote to take it out,” said the source. “I'm hard-pressed to believe that Democrats would vote with the GOP to strip it out.”
But if ending the gay ban is not in the Pentagon’s original bill and repeal has to be added as an amendment, the source suggested that could shift how senators view the vote. “That's a whole different dynamic — then it becomes not a vote to support the administration, but a vote to go against the Department of Defense.”
The Defense Department sends its budget recommendations to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees sometime between late February and early April, but people with knowledge of the subject say the White House and the Pentagon confer closely on what will be included or discarded in the document.
“Folks at the Department of Defense have said the Defense secretary is prepared to put repeal in there, but he is waiting for instructions to do so from the White House,” said the anonymous source. “The real question is, What conversations is the White House having with the senior military and the Department of Defense to put it in there?”
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