McCain wants study of 'don't ask' repeal on troop morale

President Obama signed the landmark repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" Wednesday morning, ending a 17-year ban on gays serving openly in the military.
By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010; 7:55 PM

Sen. John McCain on Sunday said the Pentagon should study how ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy would impact troop morale and battle effectiveness, instead of reporting to President Obama and lawmakers on how the Defense Department could lift the gay ban.

A Pentagon study group is preparing a report due Dec. 1 to Obama that found a majority of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops during the summer said the effect of lifting the gay ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, according to two sources familiar with the report who shared details last week with The Washington Post.

McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday that he did not think the Senate should lift the ban during the lame-duck session that begins this week.

"Once we get this study, we need to have hearings. And we need to examine it. And we need to look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

McCain, who had previously signaled a willingness to support the will of troops, also has mounted an effort to strip it from the defense authorization bill that sets Pentagon policy. The senator has said he wants it cut to ensure quick passage of the bill, according to his aides.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) supports ending the ban, according to aides, but will not proceed without Republican support.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she will vote for repeal if Reid can ensure a fair debate and will allow Republicans to introduce amendments.

Repeal supporters are pushing for a vote during the lame-duck session but know time is running out.

The liberal Center for American Progress said last week that at least 10 senators of both parties are waiting to read the Pentagon report before making their decision. In anticipation, the Human Rights Campaign and other Democratic-leaning gay rights groups are pressing senators on both sides of the aisle and plan to rally Monday morning at the Capitol Hill gravesite of a military veteran who was gay.

Some pro-repeal groups Sunday blasted McCain's "Meet the Press" comments.

"McCain is telling the Pentagon: Keep working until you produce the outcome I'm looking for," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

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