Reid had to push Obama to repeal ban on openly gay service members: book

An excerpt of a book shared by HuffPost Tuesday said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to push then-President Obama to repeal the ban on openly gay service members.

The excerpt from former HuffPost Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim’s upcoming book “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement” details conflict between Reid and Obama about introducing legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

{mosads}After losses in the 2010 midterm election, Obama made clear his priority was the nuclear arms treaty he negotiated with Russia called New START.

In December of that year, Reid pulled Obama aside in the Oval Office after a meeting to make clear a repeal on the gay service member ban had to come first.

“Reid put the screws on him. … Reid in so many words made it clear to the president that he wouldn’t get his START treaty ratified if he didn’t get on board with repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” a person who’d previously been in the room and was told about the discussion afterward told the book’s authors.

“Let’s put it this way: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ became a priority for him.” 

The repeal was initially tucked into a Senate Pentagon spending bill on Dec. 9, 2010. Republicans withheld their support, and the bill failed.

But, according to the book, Reid continued to push a repeal as a separate bill.

On Dec. 16, the day before a congressional recess was set to start, Reid called Obama to tell him he planned to put repeal on the floor.

Obama pushed back on that plan, saying the repeal would fail and derail the remainder of his lame-duck agenda.

“Well, Mr. President, sometimes you just gotta roll the dice,” Reid responded, according to the book.

After the authors reached out for comment to Obama’s office, Reid clarified the situation.

“There is no doubt that ― let me say this the right way ―  the issue was over the [START] treaty and ‘don’t ask, dont tell.’ Now, Obama was always in favor of [repealing] ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said. “I had to make sure that I could pass both of them and I wasn’t sure I could. So I decided what I was going to do is get what I thought was going to be the hardest out of the way first, and that was ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal overcame a filibuster with 63 votes and was signed by Obama.

After the ban was repealed, Reid put START on the floor and successfully ratified it.

Obama’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on the excerpt.

Tags Don't Ask Don't Tell Harry Reid LGBT New START

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