‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ to be Addressed During Lame Duck Session

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Lisa Murkowski is in the center of the debate over the military’s policy banning openly gay service-members, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”  Comments she made last week to an Anchorage TV station suggest she’s one of only a handful of Republicans saying they’d vote to repeal the law.

MSNBC Anchor Rachel Maddow jumped on the story Thursday:

But Murkowski’s spokesman says the Senator is not guaranteeing she’ll vote to repeal the ban on gays in the military.  Instead, she’s waiting to see the results of a Pentagon report coming out next Tuesday, and wants to see how Democrats in the Senate introduce the repeal legislation.

The Pentagon report will weigh-in on the impact of throwing out “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and includes surveys with service-members.  Initial leaks show the report indicates that allowing gays in the military will not cause major disruptions.

Murkowski told KTVA Anchor Matthew Felling that she’s concerned about three areas:  troop support, morale and recruitment.

But even as the national media pointed to Murkowski’s comments on KTVA and pegged her as one of only three Republicans willing so far to side with Democrats, her staff put out more cautious statements. The language changing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is in the Defense Authorization bill, and Murkowski says Democrats should not rush its passage.  She’s calling for deliberations and discussions on the Senate floor – something Democratic leader Harry Reid may not want to take much time for, since he’d like to see the bill passed next month during the brief Lame Duck session.  Murkowski told KTVA’s Matthew Felling on Thursday that Republicans must be allowed to introduce amendments to win her approval.

One of the other hot items being pushed by both Senate Democrats and the White House right now is the new Strategic Arms Reduction or START Treaty which is the nuclear arms pact with Russia. Treaties need the support of 67 Senators for passage, and President Obama wants to see it passed before Democrats lose seats in January. Murkowski’s spokesman says the Senator has not yet made a decision on whether or not she’ll support it during the Lame Duck session.

In the past Murkowski has said that other treaties, including the Law of the Sea Treaty, which she supports and believes will help Alaskan interests as well as better position the U.S. as an Arctic nation, can’t move forward until START is dealt with.

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