Skelton Quashes DADT Debate

BY Kerry Eleveld

May 19 2010 12:40 PM ET

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee began Wednesday's consideration of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act by saying there would be no debate of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal during the committee's markup.

"You won’t find any mention of the repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,'" Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri said of the draft language for the bill, adding that he and the ranking Republican member of the committee had an agreement not to address the gay ban in committee. "Mr. [Buck] McKeon and I have spoken about this, we have agreed to support Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates’s request for time to study the issue, and we do not support this issue being raised in this markup."

Repeal advocates have never viewed the House Armed Services Committee as a good avenue for adding repeal to the defense funding bill. The committee is seen as leaning conservative, and Skelton has consistently said he does not support repealing the policy this year.

The full House is scheduled to debate the defense authorization bill next week and vote on it toward the end to the week. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, chief sponsor of the House's repeal bill, is expected to offer a repeal measure as an attachment to the defense bill during that time. The House repeal legislation, H.R. 1283, currently has 192 cosponsors. Murphy has said repeatedly that he has the 217 votes needed to pass repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The House will be debating and voting on the bill concurrent to consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act in the Senate Armed Services Committee late next week. In contrast to the House, repeal advocates see the Senate committee as the best opportunity to attach a repeal measure. The chairman of that committee, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, has said he will move forward with a repeal measure if he has the votes to pass it. According to repeal advocates, he is likely one or two votes short of having the necessary commitments from other senators on the committee.

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