Burr explains vote-switch on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) joined seven other Republicans in voting to end the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Saturday afternoon, just hours after he backed an unsuccessful filibuster of the bill.

Burr told reporters after the final vote that it’s not the right time to change the policy, which is why he joined most other Republicans trying to block the bill Saturday morning.

But Burr also believes that overall, the policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military is wrong, which is why he supported the measure on final passage hours later, he said.

“I have vehemently objected to making a policy change of this magnitude at this time,” he said, but added that once the filibuster was overcome, “that settled that.”

“I don’t think this is the right time to make a major policy change like this when we have got troops deployed,” Burr said, decrying the lack of an opportunity to offer amendments.

But he added of the repeal: “This is, I think, a policy that generationally is right.

“A majority of Americans have grown up at a time that they don’t think exclusion is the right thing for the United States to do,” Burr said, also noting, “It is not accepted practice anywhere else in our society, and it only makes sense.”

Burr is the top Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and his state is home to major military installations. He said the military needs more time to prepare for the change.

“We have got hundreds of thousands of troops deployed in combat areas today. We haven’t put any thought into how we implement this within the ranks of our military,” Burr said. “I think it is irresponsible, but we will dump it in [Defense] Secretary Gates’s lap now because he is the one that is in control of the timeline, and we will find out whether politics trumps good execution.”

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) also voted to uphold the filibuster Saturday morning but then supported the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal on final passage. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature.

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