Republicans Threaten DADT Repeal Filibuster, Byrd Backs Compromise Of Compromise

As the political battle over the repeat of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell goes down to the wire, two Republican Senators threatened last night to filibuster the military spending bill that the repeal is attached to:

Armed Services Republicans threatened Wednesday to filibuster the defense authorization bill if it comes to the floor with Democrat-backed language repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Armed Services ranking member John McCain said Thursday that he would “without a doubt” support a filibuster if the bill goes to the floor with repeal language.

“I’ll do everything in my power,” the Arizona Republican said, citing letters from the four service chiefs urging Congress not to act before a Pentagon review of the policy is complete. “I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women of the military and to fight what is clearly a political agenda.”


Another Armed Services Republican, Sen. Roger Wicker, also said he would support a filibuster if the repeal language makes it into the version of the bill that goes to the floor, most likely after the Memorial Day recess.

“If it is adopted, I will not sign the conference report, and there will be an attempt to filibuster the bill on the floor,” the Mississippi Republican said of the language, which the Armed Services panel is likely to consider as an amendment Thursday. “It’s a major mistake.”

McCain’s position, and Wicker’s, is related, of course, to the letter from the Joint Chiefs that James wrote about last night, and in that regard Senator Robert Byrd last night proposed a change in the current language of the repeal bill that seems to satisfy the military’s concerns:

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, said he would vote for the measure after securing a change in the language that would delay the repeal for 60 days after certification of a military review by President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

“I did not want to blindly assent to repealing this law without giving the Congress an opportunity to re-examine the concerns of our Armed Forces and the manner in which they are being addressed,” the 92-year-old senator said.

Proponents of the repeal think Byrd brings the total of yea votes in the committee to 16. Fifteen are needed for passage.

Byrd said he worked with Senate and House leaders, the White House and the Defense Department on the language.

“This period of time will allow the Congress, along with the American people, to thoroughly review the proposed policy recommendations to ensure that these changes are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention for our Armed Forces,” he said.

This seems like a reasonable compromise to me. I support repeal of DADT, and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, but there’s no need to rush into this and the JCS request that they be allowed to complete their study and prepare for the change seems fair and reasonable.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ugh says:

    and the JCS request that they be allowed to complete their study and prepare for the change seems fair and reasonable.

    I really never understood this. What, exactly, needs to be “studied?” And if the policy is going to be repealed after the “study” if finished, presumably regardless of its conclusions, WTF is served by waiting? It really isn’t that hard.

  2. Maggie Mama says:

    Ugh, the unspoken fear is that there will be massive retirements in all branches of the service and that recruitment will drop off.

    Then Congress will have to increase re-enlistment bonuses to hopefully maintain the necessary numbers of force requirements or, heaven forbid, they might be forced to reinstate the draft which definitely would create a nightmare for all concerned.

    The “study” will be getting down to unit levels to determine what impact this decision will have on the “boots on the ground.”