Rep. Murphy on the DADT Deal
BY Kerry Eleveld
May 26 2010 4:45 PM ET
Rep. Patrick Murphy plans to offer an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday or Friday that would create a mechanism to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” upon completion of a Pentagon study of repeal and certification from military leadership and President Barack Obama.
In the following exclusive interview, Murphy says the compromise has increased the odds of passing the measure, stresses the need to stay focused, but signals his support for an eventual executive order that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military.
The Advocate: Are there any upsides or downsides to the new compromise?
Rep. Patrick Murphy: It’s all upside, frankly. I think that it will dismantle “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and it shows great leadership from our military leaders at the Pentagon, the president, as well as those of us in Congress.
As far as logistics, I’m going to introduce my amendment, and I think the arguments against it are pretty weak and outdated. The vast majority of Americans agree that this has hurt our national security to throw out 13,500 troops, it’s costing the American taxpayers $1.3 billion, and it’s time that we repeal it.
Who drove this process? When and where did you find out about the compromise?
We’ve been working nonstop. About a year ago I took leadership on this, and we have 192 cosponsors on the bill and other verbal commitments to vote for it — so we had the votes. We had a setback, obviously, three weeks ago [with the letter from Defense secretary Robert Gates], but paratroopers don’t quit. So we worked together with Senator [Joseph] Lieberman, Chairman [Carl] Levin, and the Department of Defense and the president.
I know you were working on language and whipping at the same time, but the final compromise that was relayed in the briefings held Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill, who was that driven by?
Well, we’ve been talking to the Pentagon all along. You heard Secretary Gates and Admiral [Michael] Mullen’s testimony at the hearing [in February] — it was never a question of if we would repeal, it was a question of when and how. So we’ve been working with them, and the amendment language respects the Pentagon’s timeline for their implementation study group. When the president signs the Department of Defense authorization bill into law, “don’t ask, don’t tell” will not be instantly repealed, but only after the study group comes back and the president and chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Defense secretary all certify that it doesn’t hurt military readiness or unit cohesion.
Is the compromise is helping you with your vote count?
You’ve always said you have the votes, but is this giving you extra confidence about passing the measure as an attachment to the defense authorization bill?
Yes. And to be honest with you, when I was in Iraq, paratroopers did not care whether someone was gay or straight — it was whether or not you could get the job done and make sure that we came home safe.