In his briefing with reporters earlier this week House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said he still has serious concerns about what a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law might mean and how House leaders guided the proposal through the defense authorization bill debate. Those remarks, especially his comment that "What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?" about the issue, have drawn harsh criticism from repeal supporters.
But Skelton also told us that his objections may be moot. "If (a repeal vote) happens to be exactly the same in the Senate as it was in the House, than this won't even be a conferenceable issue," he said. "We'll have to see what the Senate does."
The defense authorization bill -- which contains hundreds of pages of military spending and policy changes -- typically endures several months of conference committee debate to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions.
But repeal supporters have carefully crafted their amendment to make sure the same language appears in both chambers' drafts, and Skelton said despite his own opposition the agreement between the chambers would provide a nearly airtight defense to the plan surviving the negotiations.
Of course, the full Senate still has to pass the measure, something conservatives in the chamber have promised to fight. And even with agreement a repeal wouldn't take place until next Februrary at the earliest, after the president and defense secretary certify that the services are ready for the change.
Yesterday the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network again reminded closeted troops that the "don't ask, don't tell" law remains in effect for now, and they still could face dismissal from the military if they're sexual orientation is found out by commanding officers.