WASHINGTON - 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 of California 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. 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 hour-long breakfast interview. He said his goal is to "get the things that our warfighters 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.