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Wichita Sen.-elect Jerry Moran said Thursday he has reached no conclusion on whether to support the repeal of a ban on gays in the military, but said he would trust military leaders to make the right decision on the issue.
"That vote is not yet before me and I will take some time to consider all the issues, but primarily I am interested in knowing what those who lead our military — without political considerations — think is the correct answer," Moran said.
Moran talked to reporters during a Veterans Day visit at the Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. His comments come a week after Kansas voters sent the Republican congressman from the sprawling 1st Congressional District of central and western Kansas to the Senate with a huge victory margin.
Moran, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he had not seen a Pentagon study that reportedly concluded that lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military would present minimal risk to the current war efforts.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that more than 70 percent of respondents to a Pentagon survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians in uniform would be positive, mixed or nonexistent.
A Democratic proposal to repeal the 1993 law passed the House as part of a broader defense policy, but was rebuffed in the Senate under Republican objections just weeks before the Nov. 2 elections.
"I have nothing to do with when that issue will come up," Moran said when asked whether he would support a lame duck session taking up the issue. "It is one that needs to be resolved in our country."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised another vote by year's end. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also called on Congress to act before January.
"Priority one for me in the senate is trying to restore jobs — I think you do that by creating a tax and regulatory environment (where) businesses can succeed and entrepreneurs can take their ideas to market," he said.
Moran said he came the medical center to thank those who served their country and to make sure their needs are met. He got a warm reception from veterans who repeatedly told them they were well taken care of at the facility.
"The VA still is a bit of a bureaucracy — in fact, that is an understatement — there is still a lot of bureaucracy in the VA and most of the concerns today deal with the benefit side of veterans issue as compared to health care in which there is still too long a wait, too much paperwork," Moran said.
In his many visits to veteran groups statewide, the Kansas congressman said what he mostly hears from then is that the VA still is meeting the needs for mental health counseling such as post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"We have service men and women who are deployed time and time again in very challenging circumstances and it has a consequence on them and their families," he said.