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Any effort to kill a Senate Armed Services Committee-passed measure that would repeal the ban on open military service by gays probably won't succeed, the committee's chairman said Monday.
"I don't see the Senate removing that, to put it mildly," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., following a meeting with defense reporters. "I just think that there will be support for it."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee's ranking Republican, has said that the measure could face a filibuster — "without a doubt" — when it reaches the Senate floor as part of the full 2011 authorization bill.
Levin acknowledged that a multi-day filibuster could affect the Senate calendar but doesn't think McCain could get the votes to keep the full defense authorization bill from coming to the floor "just because of the presence of that language … and I just don't think that it would be struck on the floor of the Senate."
McCain has threatened similar action over the committee's $1 billion funding cut for the Iraq National Security Forces, Levin said.
Levin said that in either case, a filibuster is not the way to go.
"I don't know how you filibuster that," he said during the meeting with reporters. "If you don't like ‘don't ask, don't tell' language, you offer an amendment to strike it. I just don't see how one can justify filibustering the defense authorization bill because there's either a provision that's not in it that you want in it, or there's a provision … in it that you want to get rid of. You just let it go to the floor, and try to add it or strike it."
The committee on May 27 voted 16-12 to repeal the ban on openly gay service members, sealing the provision's inclusion in the 2011 defense authorization bill, which has yet to come to a Senate vote.
Levin said he had hoped that the defense bill would be considered by the full Senate before the July 4 congressional recess, but now does not see that as a possibility.
The full House voted the following day to repeal the 1993 law when it passed its version of the defense bill.
The two chambers must then reconcile all differences in their respective versions of the bill before sending final compromise legislation to President Obama for his signature.
Both bills, in essence, remove any legal impediment for the Pentagon to reverse its "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays to serve in secret.
But both bills also state that such a decision also hinges on the findings of the Pentagon's 10-month review of issues surrounding the current policy and the ramifications of repeal.
That review is due to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by Dec. 1.
Then, it would be up to Obama, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Gates.
In an unusual video appeal to the troops after the House vote, Gates stressed that he, Mullen and Obama all must certify that the policy can be reversed "without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness, and recruiting and retention," before the ban could be lifted.
More than 13,500 service members have been forced out of the military since the current ban took effect in 1994, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog and legal defense group that supports repeal.