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Posts for December, 2010

Hope, But Verify

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2010

One way or another, President Barack Obama’s strategy for repealing DADT has somehow paid off. I was skeptical because if it were possible to design a strategy intended to fail, this would be how you do it, by timing a Pentagon study to finish after after midterm elections and holding off a vote until a contentious lame duck session of Congress. And with a Republican majority waiting in the wings in the House, it was all but certain that if DADT repeal failed this year, it would be several years before we would get another crack at it. This narrowed the opportunity for repeal’s passage to just a few short weeks. And when Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid called a snap vote on December 9th without even taking the minimal care of ensuring he had the votes lined up on the Democratic side — Sen. Blanche Lincoln was sitting in the dentist’s chair when the roll was called — it appeared that the entire effort to repeal DADT was nothing but a charade.

In the end, President Obama’s strategy worked after all. But it worked not so much because it was a brilliant strategy but because he was lucky. He was lucky that Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) took DADT repeal seriously more than just about anyone else in the Senate, and that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) saw an opportunity to stand on the right side of history slipping away. I know it galls a lot of people to say this, but we actually have the hard work and perseverance of Sens. Lieberman and Collins to thank for retrieving the legislation from the shredder when everyone else said it couldn’t be done.

I have no doubt that President Obama wants DADT repealed. I do however have doubts about his urgency. The law is comatose — President Barack Obama is expected to sign the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 some time this week — but the policy remains. The legislation that recently passed the Senate only repeals the law that prohibits LGBT people from serving in the military. It does not require that the military permit LGBT people to serve openly. What’s more, the new law doesn’t repeal the old law right away, but sets out a process by which the policy can be rescinded. President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mulling must certify to Congress in writing that the military has drafted the necessary policies and regulations, and that the changes will not impact troop readiness, cohesion or military recruitment and retention. After that certification has been sent to Congress, sixty days must pass before DADT becomes history.

If certification were sent to Congress tomorrow, DADT cannot be officially repealed until the end of February. And we know that certification won’t come tomorrow. In fact, we have no idea when it will occur because the new law does not give a timetable. That uncertainty is leading to widespread speculation of how long repeal will actually take. Some say six months; others a year or even longer:

The service chiefs wanted to have more than a year to implement the new policy, citing the need to train the force and prepare it for “open service,” according to a source close to the matter.

Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, for example, may demand that physical modifications be made to accommodate concerns among some Marines about showering with other Marines who are serving openly. All of this could take time.

Amos may have backing on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a former Marine, has been pushing the Pentagon to phase in any new policy. Webb said in a statement last week that Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed to him that implementation would be “sequenced in order to protect small unit cohesion.”

“We have not determined the specific methodology that would be used should this legislation pass, but I can assure you that the specific concerns that you raise will be foremost in my mind as we develop an implementation plan,” Gates told Webb in a Dec. 17 letter. “Further, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I remain committed to work closely with the Service Chiefs and the Combatant Commanders in developing this process.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Secretary Gates caution LGBT service members from coming out just yet and for good reason: DADT is still on the books, and will be for quite some time.

The hard work of convincing Congress to repeal the law is over. For that we can celebrate. But now we must roll up our sleeves and begin the hard work of pushing the White House and the Defense Department to follow through with repeal. When Obama took office, the White House Web site offered a very specific set of promises to the LGBT community, and we’ve been trying to hold a reluctant administration accountable to those promises ever since then. We can see repeal on the horizon, but we’re not there yet. Once repeal is an actual fact on the ground, then we can give the President credit for accomplishing this task. But not before then.

Update: The Advocate reports that the repeal legislation will be signed on Wednesday.

“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” IS HISTORY!

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2010

The grave of Air Force Technical Sergent Leonard Matlovich: "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Today is a truly historic day in the history of the gay rights movement. In a 65-31 vote, the U.S. Senate approved H.R.2965, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The House had passed an identical version of the bill by a 250-175 vote earlier in the week.  The bill will now go to the President’s desk, where he had pledged to sign it into law.

Since the DADT was enacted in 1993, more than 13,500 LGBT servicemembers have been dismissed from the military.

The actual repeal of the military’s ban on LGBT people serving openly will not take effect immediately following the President’s signature. That will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness. The Pentagon Working Group study outlined the steps that need to occur in order to implement the new policy. Those steps include enacting changes to the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, training for officers and servicemembers, and updates to various policies concerning proper conduct in the workplace. Those tasks may take from six months to a year to accomplish. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) warns that it is not yet safe for LGBT servicemembers to reveal themselves to their co-workers and officers.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) skipped the vote in favor of a Christmas party, calling it “a family obligation that he just could not break. . .However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues.” Except, of course, he hasn’t been. When he voted against the Defense Authorization Bill last week, he specifically cited DADT repeal as his deciding factor, saying in his later “apology” that “I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”

Eight Republicans voted to repeal DADT. They were Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (ME),  John Ensign (R-NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH).  Burr and Ensign switched their votes to “yes” after having voted against cloture earlier this morning. All fifty-five Democrats and both independents voted in favor of the bill. In addition to Manchin’s non-vote, Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Orin Hatch (R-UT) also did not vote.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates reacts to the vote:

“I welcome today’s vote by the Senate clearing the way for a legislative repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ law.

“Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully.  This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer.

“The legislation provides that repeal will take effect once the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the Department is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.  As I have stated before, I will approach this process deliberately and will make such certification only after careful consultation with the military service chiefs and our combatant commanders and when I am satisfied that those conditions have been met for all the Services, commands and units.

“It is therefore important that our men and women in uniform understand that while today’s historic vote means that this policy will change, the implementation and certification process will take an additional period of time.  In the meantime, the current law and policy will remain in effect.

“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force.  With a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect for all, I am convinced that the U.S. military can successfully accommodate and implement this change, as it has others in history.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen has also issued this statement:

“I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military’s prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner.

“More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Gates and the Service chiefs as we set about the task of preparing and certifying the joint force to implement the new law. And I am committed to making sure that process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards.”

DADT IS DEAD: 65 – 31

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2010

When it all was said and done, less than a third of Senators voted to retain the discriminatory bill. Vote details coming shortly

A Historic Straight-Up Vote

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2010

Remember when an important component of the overall strategy to end DADT was that it be attached to the Defense Authorization Bill because, the political theory went, a lot of frightened legislators wouldn’t vote for it as a stand-along bill and including it in the larger “must pass” bill would give them cover because nobody wanted to vote “against the troops”?

And remember when they said the same thing when the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was attached to last year’s Defense Authorization Bill?

The Hate Crimes Act passed using that strategy, but this year the bulk of GOP Senators and a couple of Dems were willing to vote against the troops in order to keep LGBT people from serving openly. Instead, a straight up-or-down vote on DADT’s repeal as a stand-alone issue has passed the Senate after having sailed through the House earlier this week.

As far as I can tell, this is the very first piece of pro-gay legislation that is not attached to any other piece of legislation making its way through both chambers of the U.S. Congress on its way to the President’s desk. Please correct me if I’m overlooking something, but I cannot think of any other federal pro-LGBT legislative accomplishment that has been achieved through a straight up-or-down vote as a stand-along bill. Repealing DADT itself is historic itself, but doing it this way changes everything!

Sen. McCain Ain’t No Goldwater

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2010

McCain’s tantrum in response to his failed filibuster reminds me of a cartoon that appeared in the Tucson paper a few weeks ago. The Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons really nails it:

For added context, McCain holds Goldwater’s Senate seat, having replaced him in 1987 following Goldwater’s retirement.

Senate Votes To Proceed on DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2010

Screen capture via Towleroad.

Moments ago, the U.S. Senate approved a cloture motion to proceed with the vote on H.R.2965, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The vote to proceed was 63 to33. The six Republicans voting “yes” were Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH). No Democrats voted against the motion, although Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) did take the cowardly way out by abstaining. He had voted against the motion to proceed with the Defense Authorization Bill last week over the provision repealing DADT. Others abstaining include Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Orin Hatch (R-UT).

The final vote on the bill is expected to occur at about 3:00 EST.

Senator McCain reacts: “There will be high-fives in the liberal bastions across America.”

YouTube Preview Image

President Barack Obama is warming up his victory speech. Here is a statement from the White House:

Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

Peter “Porno Pete” LaBarbera, that famous defender of strict Judaic orthodoxy,  is livid that Sen. Joe Lieberman voted on the Sabbath.

DADT cloture vote likely on Saturday

Timothy Kincaid

December 17th, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has invoked cloture on the standalone DADT repeal bill. It will likely come up for a cloture vote tomorrow. Assuming that adequate steps are taken to have all supporters present, cloture is expected to pass, and the bill itself can be presented for a vote.

There are still tactics that those Senators who favor institutionalized anti-gay discrimination can take to be troublesome and difficult, but those tactics are increasingly making them appear desperate and, frankly, motivated by unadmirably personal prejudices.

Opposition to this bill is almost certain to tarnish the reputation of those who are leading the charge. History is not likely to be kind.

Brown backs standalone DADT repeal, assures filibuster proof support

Timothy Kincaid

December 16th, 2010

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has announced that now that the tax rate extensions have been resolved, he will support the DADT repeal. (ABC)

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown today voiced his support for a stand-alone repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, bringing the bill one vote over the 60-vote threshold that it will need to reach if and when the Senate votes on the measure in the coming weeks.

“Sen. Brown accepts the Pentagon’s recommendation to repeal the policy after proper preparations have been completed. If and when a clean repeal bill comes up for a vote, he will support it,” said Brown spokesperson Gail Gitcho.

Now the only thing holding up the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is timing. Anti-gay senators may try to run out the clock, but Sen. Lieberman believes that there is enough time even will allowable stalling tactics. We will see whether Sen. Reid will prioritize the DADT repeal and allow it to pass or put it low enough on the agenda that it is killed for at least the next two years.

House is voting on DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

December 15th, 2010

The House of Representatives is voting today (actually, kinda now) on the standalone DADT repeal bill.

Watch at C-SPAN

For those who go there immediately, this vote count is for House Resolution 1764, a procedural vote on the rules of the debate.

House to vote on standalone DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2010

One of the difficulties that could arise from the Lieberman/Collins effort in the US Senate to vote on a standalone bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is that the House repeal effort was by means of the defense authorization bill. Now Democratic leader Steny Hoyer and Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy are setting about to alleviate that concern. (AP)

A stand-alone bill to overturn the military ban on openly gay troops has been introduced by Collins and Lieberman in the hopes that the slimmed-down version would attract fewer objections.

But that bill had been considered a long-shot because any Senate action would require House approval with just days before Congress was to adjourn.

The last-minute House vote would eliminate that concern and put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to keep the Senate in session past this weekend to wrap up any unfinished business.

When we were told that making the repeal part of the defense bill was the only way to get it passed, I supported that decision. But I particularly like the idea of the standalone; it eliminates the ability of legislators to weasel or claim that it was “other provisions of the bill” that they didn’t support.

UPDATE: WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart adds info about the advantages of this bill.

The beauty of Hoyer’s move is that, once passed, the bill would go over to the Senate as a privileged motion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would be compelled to move on it. Another good reason? The privileged motion allows the time to be cut in half. Only one cloture vote would be necessary to end debate, which should be limited for reasons I’ll address in a second. Then an up-or-down vote would be held. With the chamber having gotten 60 votes to close debate on the bill, a voice vote most likely would be held. The measure would then head to President Obama for his signature.

Standalone DADT repeal update

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2010

It turns out that the actual bill number to repeal DADT is Senate Bill 4023. Although the text of the bill is not available, it is reported to be the same as was proposed in the defense bill. This bill appears not to have been sent to committee.

The current list of co-sponsors is:

Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I-CT]
Susan Collins [R-ME]

Daniel Akaka [D-HI]
Michael Bennet [D-CO]
Jeff Bingaman [D-NM]
Barbara Boxer [D-CA]
Sherrod Brown [D-OH]
Benjamin Cardin [D-MD]
Chris Coons [D-DE]
Christopher Dodd [D-CT]
Richard Durbin [D-IL]
Dianne Feinstein [D-CA]
Al Franken [D-MN]
Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY]
Thomas Harkin [D-IA]
John Kerry [D-MA]
Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ]
Patrick Leahy [D-VT]
Carl Levin [D-MI]
Blanche Lincoln [D-AR]
Robert Menéndez [D-NJ]
Jeff Merkley [D-OR]
Patty Murray [D-WA]
Harry Reid [D-NV]
Mark Udall [D-CO]
Tom Udall [D-NM]
Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI]
Ron Wyden [D-OR]

It is worth noting that Blanch Lincoln, who voted against cloture last time, is now a co-sponsor. Those highlighed serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, in the “almost too stupid for words” category, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the sole Democratic Senator to vote against cloture in this past go-around, explained his vote this way:

Again, I was only here three weeks…didn’t know much about the issue.

So, not knowing the full details, Manchin decided the best thing to do was to vote against the advice of his President, every other member of his Party, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the results of a year long study, and ever poll taken within the past half-decade.

Un-huh. Me thinks that he was using the “when in doubt, vote anti-gay” principle.

Akaka added as cosponsor of S. 4022

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2010

Senate Bill 4022, the standalone bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has picked up at least one new cosponsor (KPUA)

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka is co-sponsoring stand-alone legislation to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he says congressional action that results in orderly implementation of a new policy is preferable to a judicial order.

The Lieberman/Collins DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2010

So far, information surrounding the efforts of Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Collins (R- ME) to get a standalone repeal bill to end the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is sparse. Here is what we know:

The bill is Senate Bill 4022 and although the text of this bill does not appear to be available online, GovTrack.us is claiming that it was introduced last night:

Dec 9, 2010: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

This is confusing, because Lieberman has been twittering that this bill would take advantage of Rule 14 and would not be sent to committee. It is unknown whether Rein reneged on that offer or if Lieberman was mistaken.

But this assignment may not be a lethal move. I believe that Sen Levin (D-MI) has the power to call that committee into session just for the purpose of voting it out of committee. Although Senators McCain, Inhofe, and Sessions are members, they may have limited obstructionist abilities.

The Armed Service Committee has 15 Democrats, including Lieberman. One is Joe Manchin who was the only Democrat to vote against cloture and is on record as opposing repeal “at this time.” Republicans have 12 members on the committee, but two of them are Sen. Collins and Sen. Brown who are both on record as supporting repeal. Additionally, Lindsey Graham, who is considered an unknown vote, sits on this committee, as does Saxby Chambliss, who may feel a certain amount of pressure not to appear too homophobic after an anti-gay death threat was traced to one of his staff members (though his support is a very long shot).

I would find it peculiar if this bill could not get out of Armed Services fairly easily.

The two other sponsors (so far) of this bill are Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO, also sits on Armed Services) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).

Lieberman Proposes “Hail Mary” To Revive DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

According to Towleroad, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is holding a news conference saying that he and Sen. Susan Collins will introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT. He says that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on the new measure.  So far, there are no details on the timing. An identical stand alone bill would also have to pass the House.

Reid Calls Snap Vote on DADT; His Failure Kills the Bill

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid made the snap decision just moments ago to call for a cloture vote on the Defense Authorization Bill that contains language repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It failed, garnering only 57 of the 60 votes needed, with 40 voting against. Surprisingly, Sen. Susan Collins salvaged her reputation by voting for cloture at the last minute — but only when it was clear the bill would fail.

Only a complete idiot could not see this coming, given the insistence on a relatively minimal number of amendment votes and time for debate that Sen. Collins was asking for. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted against cloture, meaning that he doesn’t even have the social conscience of his predecessor, Robert Byrd.  Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, and Richard Lugar all claimed that they supported DADT’s repeal, but they support boneheaded partisan posturing even more. Like I said, only a complete idiot could not see this coming.

I wonder if Harry Reid saw it coming?

Just like before, political gamesmanship trumps sound policy. But the problem wasn’t just in the Senate. Remember, it was President Obama who insisted that the Senate shouldn’t act before the Defense Department’s study was released — a report that wasn’t scheduled to be released until December 1, right in the middle of a lame duck session following what everyone knew would be a contentious mid-term election. This was his brilliant plan, and he owns the outcome as much as Reid and the GOP.

The very thing that was all too easy to predict has come to pass.

Update: In an act that rubs salt in the wound, we have learned that Reid kept his vote at “yes” for cloture. By not switching his vote to a “no” vote before voting ended, it means that he cannot bring the bill back up for a vote again under the Senate’s rules. In other words, while the Senate voted it down, Reid has killed the bill for good. That’s pretty much all you need to know about his latest move. For whatever unfathomable reason, Reid engineered its demise, once and for all.

Update: A commenter corrects me on the process:

This was the vote to reconsider the vote by which cloture on the motion to proceed to debate was not invoked.

(See the senate rule here.)

Therefore, Reid switching his vote would have had no effect- you can’t reconsider a vote to reconsider. However, Reid can simply file another cloture motion on the bill which would require 3 days to ripen, then hold another vote for cloture. This happened back in May on the financial reform bill, S.3217. Cloture was filed, rejected, and reconsideration failed. Cloture was filed, rejected, and reconsideration was then waived as part of an agreement, and eventually the bill was passed.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: we’ve got a great bunch of readers. Thanks for the correction.

I would however point out that I do believe that Reid recklessly intended this to go down in flames — or at least didn’t care if it passed one way or another. He knew the vote would be close, but he didn’t even bother to find out if all of his potential “yes” votes were even in the chamber. Sen. Blanche Lincoln was in the dentist’s chair when the vote went down, and Sen. Collins wasn’t even in the chamber when he made the snap call for the vote. If he really wanted it to pass, he would have done what any competent politician would have done and made sure his votes were lined up and present. He didn’t bother to take those minimal fundamental steps, and that omission was unconscionable.

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