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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, with all the talk about the small business bill and about the fact that we have an administration, with a majority in the House and the Senate, that has amassed unbelievable debts, raising it up to $13 trillion, and a deficit of $1.4 trillion in just 1 year, the first year, people have forgotten other things that are going on.
I am very much concerned, being the second-ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, about the national defense authorization bill, which we have passed every year in all the years I have been here. Generally speaking, it is one we can bring out on the floor, Members can offer amendments, and normally it takes 2, 3, sometimes 4 weeks, and longer, to pass it. But certainly, particularly during times of war, it is the most important piece of legislation we have.
I do not know what the majority is going to do. I just keep hearing rumors that they may very well not be wanting to bring it up or may bring it up by ``filling the tree,'' a little technical term, so Republicans would not be able to have amendments on the bill.
Well, this is very much a concern of mine. I think it puts them in a position where they can say: Oh, Republicans certainly are going to vote for the Defense authorization bill. In times of war, we have to do it. Well, we do. But there is a limit as to what they can put in there that is purely right down party lines.
There are a couple issues I wish to talk about in the Defense authorization bill that ended up being right down party lines. One is the issue of don't ask, don't tell. But before doing that, I would like to suggest that in May, in the final meeting we had of the Senate Armed Services Committee, we passed this out, and two amendments were added on the very last day by the Democrats, and they were passed virtually by all the Democrats right down party lines. One was opening our military hospitals for abortions, and that is something we need to talk about, but the other one was one we need to talk about more right now because this is the issue that so many people are not aware of. That is the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.
I remember back in 1994, I was in the House, running for the Senate, and one of the three issues that was very prominent in that race, which I won, concerned gays in the military. At that time, there were some efforts saying: Well, we want to acknowledge gays in the military so they can be open in their practices and all that. Well, a compromise was reached that I did not think at the time was all that good of an idea. But that was 1993, I guess, the latter part of 1993. It has worked for--what--17 years. It was called don't ask, don't tell; that is, if someone wants to serve who is a gay person, a man or a woman, in the military, that person can do it if that person is not out in the open. The whole idea of this thing was so they could not use the military as a forum to advance very liberal causes.
I am a veteran. I can remember when I was in the U.S. Army, and anyone who is a veteran knows the problems that would be associated with the practice of repealing don't ask, don't tell so people are openly gay in the military. You are going to have all kinds of billeting and other problems.
So I think when the discussion came up that we were considering doing this, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Gates, did the right thing on February 2 of 2010. He said: Let's go ahead and have a study. Let's have an independent study as to how unit cohesion and readiness would be impacted if we repealed don't ask, don't tell.
In addition to the study, this is also going to conduct a survey of military members, people who are out there, in asking: Well, what is your feeling? You are out there in the fields, in many cases, out in the foxholes. What is your feeling about having open gays in the military?
So they were all getting ready to respond to this when a surprise took place, when the Democrats, almost straight down party lines, came out and said: Well, we are going to go ahead and repeal it anyway. They worded it in such a way that we will repeal it, but, of course, that will not take place until after the study is complete. The study was to be completed in December of this year. It was going to be a 12-month study. All the Members of the military were going to participate in that.
I can remember as recently as April 28 Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, said--and this is a joint statement:
[We] believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change.
Well, I was all for that. They were right, along with all the rest of the chiefs of the military and all the troops in the field. Of course, they obviously changed their minds. But if you want to know the effect, you need to go and talk to the troops in the field, and then you need to talk also to the chiefs of the military.
I am going to go ahead and quote, so I can get it in the Record now, exactly the feelings of those Chiefs of the four services and what they are recommending. I am so sick and tired of having the administration make those decisions without any consultation of the people in uniform. We are going through that right now in some of the things that are going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The policy should be: The people in uniform know what to do. Quit trying to dictate their behavior.
Well, anyway, General Casey, the Chief of the U.S. Army, said:
I remain convinced that it is critically important to get a better understanding of where our Soldiers and Families are on this issue, and what the impacts on readiness and unit cohesion might be. .....
I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review--
That is the one that is supposed to be completed in December--
will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.
That is exactly what we are saying. We are saying: All right. We wanted your views, but we are not going to listen to your views now.
Admiral Roughead of the U.S. Navy said:
We need this review to fully assess our force and carefully examine potential impacts of a change in the law. My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.
Obviously, their input does not matter now because they have already made that decision.
General Conway, of the U.S. Marine Corps--he is the Commandant--said:
I encourage Congress to let the process the Secretary of Defense created run its course. Collectively, we must make logical and pragmatic decisions about the long-term policies of our Armed Forces--which so effectively defend this great nation.
General Schwartz, of the U.S. Air Force, said:
I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, that the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the don't ask, don't tell law. Such action allows me to provide the best military advice to the President, and sends an important signal to our Airmen and their families that their opinion matters. To do otherwise, in my view, would be presumptive and would reflect an intent to act before all relevant factors are assessed. .....
Well, I agree with all that. These are the guys in the field. They are the ones who are making this decision. Yet, on May 27, both Gates and Mullen, who had already stated they should wait until after this study is completed--that would be in December--on May 27, they had what they called a compromise. Basically, the compromise is saying: Well, we are going to go ahead and repeal it. That was the motion that was in the last day before we passed the Defense authorization bill out of the House, and the same thing, the Defense authorization bill of the Senate.
Why did they change? Why did Gates and Mullen change? Gates and Mullen answered to the President. The President, I truly believe--and I hate to throw this into it--but, obviously, this is something the vast majority of people in America would like to see happen the way we had said it was going to happen, so we could evaluate the effect on readiness and the effect on our troops in the field, the effect on the war that is taking place right now. Yet they went ahead and reversed that, and, again, that was right down party lines.
There are so many other things having to do with this that are critical. Obviously, current chaplains are not able to be heard. But we have a letter from 41 of the retired chaplains stating that ``normalizing homosexual behavior in the armed forces will pose a significant threat to chaplains' and Servicemembers' religious liberty.''
So we have this that is taking place right now.
I know a lot of people are concerned, as I am concerned, with a ruling that came from a district court out in California. This ruling came out and said: We think it is a violation of the first amendment rights of homosexuals not to be able to express their preferences in any way they want.
However, the military is different. It is my understanding--and I am not a lawyer--this ruling may not have any effect. In fact, there is an article. It was on FOX News this morning: ``Pentagon: No Plans To Change `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy After Court Ruling.'' Well, that was good news to me because I thought maybe it was all over once the courts ruled.
But the only thing they would go through now with the compromise, they call it, that they passed, is that you would have to have Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Gates, and President Obama making the statement as to what they prefer. That is why I say this is over and done with, unless we have an opportunity to bring out the Defense authorization bill and to offer amendments on the Defense authorization bill. I have to tell you, there are several Democrats now who have joined Republicans in wanting to stop the repeal of don't ask, don't tell or at least to wait until this study is completed.
But if you do not think the three I just mentioned have already made up their minds, I will go ahead and read their statements.
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.
I fully support the president's decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it.
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself ..... it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.
So you have to ask the question, Why? What was wrong with waiting until December? I will tell you what is wrong: because there is an election that is taking place November 2 and the gay lobby is a huge lobby. I think we all know that. All these people who think they have not been liberal enough, I cannot imagine there is anyone in America today who thinks this administration has not been liberal enough. But these individuals are the ones who want to have this done before the November 2 elections. I can think of no reason at all that they would take this stand other than the political reason.
So here is what I believe. I think we are going to have to make a decision. I would certainly hope the majority leader and the Democrats who have this policy will allow this to come up and come up as soon as possible and allow a full and open debate, as we have always had. There is not a time in the history of this country that we have brought up a Defense authorization bill, particularly in time of war, without allowing everybody to get in there and to offer amendments. Perhaps it could be argued this is the most important bill of the year.
So I am hoping people start talking about it. That is why I am bringing it up today. The fear I have is this is going to be shoved down our throats by the majority, and we cannot let this happen.
Right now, we have a lot of men and women over in the various areas of combat.
I have had the honor of being over there many times. I have worked with these individuals. We have more than our share in my State of Oklahoma. Our 45th is going to be going back over there. I would like to make sure these guys and gals know we are listening to them.
A lot of people criticize me and others for spending so much time over there, but there are so many things we find out when we are over there--things we can't get in hearings back here. I am talking about finding out, as we did over there, about the need for the MRAP and some of the other capabilities we need to have so we can come back and make sure our kids who are over there fighting have everything they want. The very least we can do is keep our word, when we promised them that we are not going to do anything until we hear back from our military, our soldiers in the field, as to what they feel about the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. It is a very significant issue and it is one we are going to have to talk about this week.
With that, I yield the floor.
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