Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not optimistic that Congress will pass a repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy before the end of the year.
While speaking on Monday with sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, Gates said Congress is not likely to act during the lame-duck session to repeal the law that bans openly gay military members.
Gates's comments come almost a week after Senate Republicans pledged to block all other legislative items, including nixing "Don't ask, don't tell," during the lame-duck until Congress passes an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.
Gates said Congress has about two weeks to act before the end of the lame-duck session. Leaders in the House and Senate have not yet announced when they will recess for the last time, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects the Senate to adjourn by Dec. 17. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a leading supporter of repeal, wants Congress to remain in session until the ban is lifted.
The Pentagon chief strongly voiced his support for repeal last week after the Defense Department released the findings of a 10-month study that showed allowing openly gay service members would not hurt the military.
Gates again said it would be better for Congress to enact a repeal than for the court to do it.
"My greatest fear is that we will be told that this law will be overturned by a court and we will be told to implement it without any time for preparation for training, any of the other efforts that need to be undertaken to prepare us for such a change," Gates said Monday.