SLDN's Aubrey Sarvis 'Disturbed' by Reports That White House is Lobbying Congress Against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal This Year
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, has written Obama a letter expressing his concerns over "multiple reports" from Capitol Hill that the White House Congressional liaison team is urging some members of Congress to delay a vote on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
I am very disturbed by multiple reports from Capitol Hill that your Congressional liaison team is urging some Members of Congress to avoid a vote on repeal this year. The upcoming House and Senate votes will be close, and very frankly, Mr. President, we need your help now.
As a veteran, and on behalf of thousands of men and women who have served and want to serve their country openly, I ask you today to stand by your encouraging words to the American people in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”
Mr. President, this is also about the integrity of all service members. I respectfully urge you to continue speaking up for them on Capitol Hill. Under your leadership and with your voice we can have a repeal victory this year.
Last week, the White House released a statement from an "unnamed source" rebutting similar reports of delay from Americablog.
Said the unnamed official: "These rumors are blatantly false. The President has been clear in his desire to see Congress repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the Department of Defense is already moving forward with its own review. The Office of Legislative Affairs continues to engage lawmakers, and at no time has the White House asked any Member to take this issue off the table."
Sarvis told The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld that the pressure is coming from the Pentagon:
"Sarvis told The Advocate that he has gotten reports from Capitol Hill staffers in both the Senate and House that representatives from the Department of Defense have asked them to hold off on taking a vote on the policy until a report on how to implement repeal is completed. The study, ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February, is due in early December. 'The administration is saying, ‘Look, the working group has its task, their work is not concluded until the end of the year, and we would prefer that this not be voted on this year,’' Sarvis said. Asked if the directive came from officials at the White House or the Defense Department, Sarvis said, 'It’s the Pentagon, but the Pentagon is part of the administration.' The Department of Defense was not immediately available for comment."
"The challenge for pro-repeal advocates, Sarvis said, is finding a way to reconcile the president’s stated goal in the State of the Union with the secretary’s desire to have the remainder of 2010 to finish the study. Sarvis said his organization and other groups are working to bridge that gap. Servicemembers United, a gay veterans group floated a plan earlier this year that would legislatively lock in repeal this session but respect the implementation timetable laid out by Pentagon officials."