Pelosi push on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ puts panel chairman in a tough spot

Roxana Tiron, The Hill

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) is in a politically awkward position on the Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Democratic leaders, working with gay-rights activists, are looking for ways to scrap the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military. But Skelton, a GOP target this fall and one of the original architects of the ban, opposes efforts to repeal it.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has been able so far to fend off efforts to alter the law. But Skelton is facing an uphill battle when the House votes on the defense authorization bill, which may occur next week.

Repealing the ban could become a contentious debate complicating the passage of the bill that Skelton will manage on the House floor.

It could also complicate Skelton’s reelection bid, because Republicans believe they can defeat the 17-term lawmaker in November.

Skelton, 78, usually breezes to reelection. But with an anticipated GOP wave coming in November, Skelton has had to focus more on his campaign. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won Skelton’s district easily in the 2008 presidential contest, beating President Barack Obama 61-38.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Wednesday that she will work to end “Don’t ask, don’t tell” this year, but has pointed out repeatedly that she will confer with Skelton before moving forward.

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