House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday appeared to back off his comments of two days running that he wanted to overturn President Clinton’s policy on homosexuals in the military, saying instead that Congress would probably leave that policy in place.
He said that if the president’s policy withstood court scrutiny, homosexuals in the military would not “be an issue that you’ll see necessarily very much legislative action on.”
But he had said Sunday, “We’re going to probably go back to the rules that existed prior to President Clinton changing them.”
Under those rules, homosexuals were banned from the military.
Two years ago, the policy was changed to “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue,” a compromise under which recruits were not asked about their sexual orientation and their commanders were barred from investigating it without compelling evidence. The compromise disappointed gay rights advocates but has satisfied military leaders and largely defused the issue, leaving virtually no one calling for a change.
Gingrich’s statements have left many people puzzled and his attempts to clarify them have only deepened the mystery.
Monday, Gingrich said at a breakfast meeting with reporters that House Republicans would try to attach an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill to reinstate the old policy.
But he also said Monday that on Sunday he had perhaps been presumptuous and “answered more explicitly than I should have.”
Tuesday, he said on “CBS This Morning” that he was not backpedaling but that he had been asked what Congress would do if the courts upheld last week’s ruling by a federal district judge in Brooklyn that the current policy was unconstitutional.
“The question,” he said, “was what would happen if the judge’s decision, which threw out that policy, was upheld. And I said I thought that the bias in the Republican Congress would be more in favor of listening directly to the military rather than listening to the administration. I think if the judge is not upheld, if he’s overruled and the current policy stays in effect, my guess is that that will not be an issue that you’ll see necessarily very much legislative action on.”
In fact, however, the question, posed on Sunday by columnist George Will on ABC’s “This Week With David Brinkley” was, “Do you expect this Congress to take up that issue?”
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