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Rep. Skelton Opposes ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Compromise

Here’s an example of why LGBT activist groups who cheered the Obama administration’s acquiescence to a legislative push overturning the military’s ban on open gay service are girding up for a close fight.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the powerful veteran legislator who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, came out just now against the compromise. Skelton thought Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ initial preference for delaying any legislative action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until a Pentagon working group instructs Gates on how the services feel repeal ought to proceed is the right way to go. And he read the reluctance in Gates’ acquiescence to the compromise as an opportunity to oppose the repeal push when Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) offers it as an amendment to the fiscal 2011 Defense Authorization bill during the House floor vote later this week.

Here’s Skelton’s statement:

“In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee this spring and in a recent letter, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen asked Congress to defer any legislative action regarding ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ until after the Department of Defense completes its comprehensive review later this year. In a statement today, the Pentagon indicated that ideally, Secretary Gates continues to prefer that the Department complete this review before Congress considers legislation. This is a reasonable and responsible request that I respect.

“My position on this issue has been clear – I support the current policy and I will oppose any amendment to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ I hope my colleagues will avoid jumping the gun and wait for DOD to complete its work.”

It’s unclear whether Skelton’s opposition could derail the amendment. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have maneuvered more controversial bills through the House with lesser margins for error. But it’s yet another sign that whatever the White House may have endorsed, passage of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is anything but guaranteed. And that’s not even factoring in tomorrow’s vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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