WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate this week is debating the defense authorization bill, which may include two provisions that repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allow some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a final vote on the bill will likely not occur until after Congress returns from its fall break for midterm elections.
The bill, titled the National Defense Authorization Act, details the 2011 Defense Department budget, including troop pay and weapons upgrades, “but also ensures that our military reflects our nation’s values,” Reid said.
The Senate will vote on whether to include an amendment repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay individuals from serving in the military.
The final bill may also include the DREAM Act, a measure that would enable illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States at a young age and who have been in the country for five years to become a permanent resident if they attend college or serve in the military for two years.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called action on the bill a “transparent attempt to win an election,” on the Senate floor last week.
The bill “has everything to do with elections and nothing to do with defense,” he said.
Democrats argue that the DREAM Act does have a place in the defense bill because it will enable more military recruits.
“Senator McCain and anyone else who thinks the DREAM Act is not directly related to our national security should talk to the brave young men and women who want to defend our country but are turned away,” Reid said in a statement last week.
Also, Reid said, many generals in the field believe the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy affects troop morale and combat readiness.
But Reid said Republicans objections were not just about the possible repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” provision and the DREAM Act. “There are more issues they don’t like,” he said.