Gay-rights advocates are not yet celebrating what—by all indications—appears to be imminent action on the Hill to move toward a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Why? Because some lawmakers are threatening to support a filibuster of the defense authorization bill (where the repeal language may be added) when it comes up for a vote, expected to take place late June or early July.
Some gay advocates—on background, and on the Web—are reporting that McCain has asked for the vote to be held in open session. Roll Call’s Kathleen Hunter reports that McCain said he would “without a doubt” support a filibuster if the bill goes to the floor with repeal language. “ ‘I’ll do everything in my power,’ the Arizona Republican said, citing letters from the four service chiefs urging Congress not to act before a Pentagon review of the policy is complete. ‘I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women of the military and to fight what is clearly a political agenda.’ ” (McCain, however, appears to have stopped short of saying he would call for a filibuster, only that he would support one). Hunter reported that Republican Sen. Roger Wicker also said he would support a filibuster.
McCain is facing a fierce reelection fight in Arizona against Tea Party favorite opponent J. D. Hayworth, who has accused him in ads of being “a conservative actor” who only pretends to support conservative causes.
McCain has said in the past that he would support a repeal if military leaders first endorsed the change, and in February Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told senators they supported President Obama’s pledge to seek a congressional repeal of the 1993 policy. Yet McCain said he was “disappointed” in the testimony and an aide said it represented only personal opinion. (McCain’s family has also expressed their personal opinion on gay rights; both wife Cindy and daughter Meghan have appeared in ads to support gay-equality issues.)
On Wednesday, McCain circulated a letter on the Hill from the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise, and Gates has only offered a lukewarm endorsement of the repeal compromise, fuel for McCain’s argument that the military is not fully behind the congressional action.