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McKeon: Gays in military issue is settled

Posted: June 22, 2012 2:30 a.m.
Updated: June 22, 2012 2:30 a.m.

Howard Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military is a settled issue that he won’t try to reverse even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency in November and the GOP captures the Senate.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita,  said his focus is on restoring money for the military after the latest round of defense cuts — a planned reduction of $487 billion over 10 years that could nearly double if Congress fails to avert automatic, across-the-board cuts that begin in January. Pressed on the divisive issue of gay rights that roiled Congress two years ago, McKeon said he wouldn’t revisit it.

“We fought that fight,” McKeon told defense reporters at an hourlong breakfast interview. He said his goal is to “get the things that our war-fighters need.”

The committee chairman said other GOP lawmakers might try to reinstate the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” that was in effect for nearly two decades. “That’s not something that I would personally bring up,” he said.

He recalled that in 1994, when Republicans took control of the House after 40 years, there were high expectations for ambitious changes. “They expected us to pull off miracles. That’s not how things work. I’d rather focus on money for defense,” McKeon said.

Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed legislation in December 2010 repealing the policy. The change took effect last year, and military leaders have concluded that it has not affected morale or readiness. In fact, this month, the Pentagon is marking gay pride month with an official salute.

Addressing a range of issues from the automatic cuts to intelligence leaks, McKeon recommended that Congress look for a short-term solution to delay the automatic cuts and do it now rather than wait for a lame-duck congressional session after the election. He said the November elections have the potential to be the nastiest ever, especially with heavy spending by outside political groups, and that it was ridiculous to expect all sides — the president, Republicans and Democrats — to “come together in a ‘Kumbaya’ moment.”

As he said earlier this year, McKeon is willing to consider increasing revenue through taxes to avert the defense cuts, making him one of few Republicans open to that possibility. “I’m willing to look at anything,” he said.

Congress is scrambling to come up with a way to avoid automatic, $1.2 trillion cuts in domestic and military programs over a decade. The failure of a bipartisan congressional supercommittee last year to come up with a deficit-cutting plan will trigger the cuts, scheduled to begin Jan. 2.

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