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Posts for June, 2014

Sue Collins endorses marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 25th, 2014

sue collins
Senator Susan Collins (R – Maine) has announced that she supports marriage equality. (Bangor Daily News)

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in response to a question from the BDN.

This shocks exactly no one. Collins has been a long-time ally of the community and was instrumental in overturning the ban on open service in the military.

She joins only three other GOP Senators in openly supporting marriage equality: Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It is, nevertheless, an important addition and a step in the long road of changing the position of the Republican Party.

It will be interesting to see the response. I suspect the usual loons in the anti-gay special interest groups will whine, but I’m betting that no one in the party leadership is in anyway critical of Sen. Collins.

We are winning. Today was a good day.

ENDA Passes Senate Cloture

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2013

The Senate has voted 61-30 to invoke cloture on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), setting up what appears to be its assured passage for a final Senate vote on Wednesday. Seven Republicans joined 54 Democrats in voting for cloture. The seven GOP ayes were: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME), Orin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA). Sens. Kirk and Collins were co-sponsors. Heller announced his support earlier today. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) had voiced her support for ENDA but didn’t cast a vote today. Sens. Ayotte and Portman were a last-minute additions. Portman’s son was particularly happy to see his dad’s vote:

Update: Sen. Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, broke his silence for his first Senate Floor Speech since returning:

“I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke,” Kirk said. “I’ve risen to speak because I believe so passionately in… ENDA.”

 

Federal domestic partnership benefits bill introduced

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2011

Cong. Ros-Lehiten with Susan Shelly

About a week ago I had the opportunity to meet Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). She was in Los Angeles for an evening and made time to speak to Log Cabin Republicans about her ongoing support for civil equality in our nation’s capital, and a friend invited me to be his guest.

At that time she told the assembled crowd that she would be co-sponsoring a bill with Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to recognize the domestic partners of federal employees and offer benefits equivalent to those offered to spouses. Today that bill was introduced.

“I am pleased to co-sponsor this legislation because we are a nation that prides itself on treating everyone as equals and this bill assures that we bring those same ideals to the regulations that guide federal benefits for domestic partners of federal employees,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. “We have taken steps to gain equal rights for all but much remains to be done. Passage of this legislation will be one step in the right direction. I am pleased that the Senate has also introduced a similar bill,” she said.

The companion Senate bill is co-sponsored Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

(Susan Shelly, pictured with the Congresswoman, is running for Congress as a Republican in the 30th Congressional district as a social liberal and fiscal conservative.)

DADT Certification Is Done!

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2011

The certification letter signed by President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen

The military ban on gay servicemembers serving openly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will officially pass into history on September 20, 2011. President Barack Obama signed the certification stating that the U.S. military is now fully prepared to end the policy with no harm to military readiness. The certification, which is required by the repeal law passed last December, starts a sixty day clock to final repeal.

The White House released the following statement from President Obama:

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen signed the certification letter yesterday and presented it to the President this afternoon.

According to Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly:

In a news conference at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer said that the military had completed ”the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal,” praised the work of the Repeal Implementation Team, and said, ”This thoughtful and steady approach…has laid the groundwork for a smooth and orderly transition.”

…Hummer said the military expects all training of active duty servicemembers and reserves will be completed by Aug. 15.

Hummer said that the repeal implementation Team has conducted a thorough review of regulations and policies, made the necessary revisions, and stated that those changes will be effective upon the date of repeal. Some of the main policies addressed relate to separations of servicemembers under DADT. Such servicemembers, when discharged fully under DADT, will be able to re-apply after repeal, said Hummer.

There are still some issues related to DADT’s repeal which are yet to be addressed:

”Perhaps the largest piece of this is benefits,” said Hummer.

Although Hummer said that certain benefits in which servicemembers can select a beneficiary of their own choosing will be open to gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers who wish to name a same-sex partner, he noted that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ”the existing definition of ‘dependent’ in some laws” will prohibit extending benefits such as health care and housing allowances to the same-sex partners of servicemembers.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose refusal to let DADT repeal die when all hope appeared lost, praised today’s development:

America is now one giant step closer to joining at least 28 of our closest allies in welcoming the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country.  I am delighted to have helped lead the effort to begin repeal of this law because it is the right thing to do for our military and for our country.

Sen. Collins was the only Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote to include DADT’s repeal in the Defense Authorization bill.  In December, she was the only Republican in the Senate to vote to proceed to the Defense Authorization bill which included repeal language. When that vot failed, Sens. Collins and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) then introduced a standalone bill which passed the Senate on December 18, 2010 by a vote of 65-31.

Sen. Lieberman also praised DADT’s imminent demise:

“Our strongest in the world military is even stronger today with the certification that its readiness and effectiveness will not be diminished by the open service of gay and lesbian servicemembers. I thank our military leaders for their efforts over the past several months to implement this policy. Justice has been served, and we should all be grateful that patriots stand guard every day around the world protecting our precious freedoms.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) also reacted to the news:

Given Leon Panetta’s lifelong record of opposition to unfair discrimination, I knew when the President appointed him to be the Secretary of Defense that he would act promptly to implement last December’s legislation to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I have a prediction: just as we have seen in those states where same-sex marriage has occurred with none of the negative consequences predicted, it will soon be clear that there was never any basis for this discriminatory policy in the first place other than prejudice, and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender servicemembers will soon demonstrate that there never was a good reason to keep them from serving our country.

Heroes!!

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2010

There are many many people to whom we owe appreciation for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The President, many gay advocates and lobbyists, media who scrutinized and asked tough questions, Senators who steadfastly supported us, the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, and even anti-gay activists whose wackiness and obsessive hatred galvanized support for our cause.

But there are two people without whom we really could not have achieved this goal. When everything seemed impossible, they broke expectations and took the unexpected route: the path which, against all political rules, led to success.

Our community has at times been frustrated with Senator Lieberman and disappointed with Senator Collins. But today, they are heroes.

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.

Collins/Reid deal in process; vote not tonight

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2010

TMP is reporting that Collins and Reid are in agreement on the number of amendments and that Collins is requesting more time for debate and that it occur immediately following the tax compromise vote. It looks as though they may finally be trying to work together:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already promised her the 15 amendments, but his initial offer was for a day or two of debate. Here’s her response to reporters tonight, after a Senate vote.

“The majority leader’s allotment of time for to debate those amendments was extremely short, so I have suggested doubling the amount of time, assuring that there would be votes, and making sure that the Republicans get to pick our own amendments as opposed to the Majority Leader.”

“If he does that I will do all that I can to help him proceed to the bill. But if he does not do that, then I will not,” she added.

Late this evening, per Collins’ request, Reid delayed a test vote he’d planned to hold tonight.

The tax bill may take up most of the week, so we may not see an actual Defense Bill cloture vote until perhaps Saturday.

“I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote…so that we could get the tax bill considered first — which I believe could be on the floor tomorrow — and completed by Saturday, and then move immediately to the DOD bill, but under a fair agreement.”

DADT Repeal Getting Caught Up In Gamesmanship

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2010

This analysis from TPM illustrates the tensions between Reid and Collins:

“I’ve been pleading with Senator Reid, don’t hold a vote on the defense authorization bill, the repeal of DADT, until we have a good opportunity to work out a fair process for the consideration bill with Senator Collins and some of the other Republican,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) this afternoon after a Dem caucus meeting. “Senator Collins really wants to vote for the bill with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Senator Scott Brown is the same and I think there may be at least one other Republican Senator to make that clear today.”

That third Republican has since been revealed as Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

…From Reid’s point of view the math is two-dimensional. By calling the vote, and leaking to the press, he ups the pressure on Collins to make a decision — and quickly. At the same time, he creates a focal point for liberal animus if the Senate fails to pass repeal before this Congress comes to an end and with it hope for a legislative solution to DADT. That’s not helpful to Lieberman, who wants to keep negotiations fluid, egos unbruised and the bill alive.

It’s not the policy they’re arguing over. It’s all about how they will spin the blame if it goes down in defeat.

Possible DADT vote today

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2010

There has been a heightened tension over the past few weeks surrounding the partisan positioning over whether to raise the current tax rates – and on whom – along with the extension of unemployment benefits and whether this battle would eliminate the possibility of a vote on the Defense Authorization Bill (which includes the repeal of DADT). But though I’ve had my douts, I’ve maintained a certain degree of optimism around the prospect.

This is too important to the White House. Not that the President is particularly impassioned about repealing the discriminatory policy, but he needs to shore up support from the more liberal end of the Democratic Party and this is an action that can help that goal. And I’ve also assumed from the beginning that a compromise would be reached in the tax/unemployment negotiations once everyone had an opportunity to make the speeches that their constituents want to hear.

So I’m not particularly surprised that Sen. Reid has announced that he will bring the Defense Authorization Bill up for a cloture vote today. And there is a good chance that it DADT repeal can be achieved.

In September, there were 56 Democratic Senators, of which two – Senators Lincoln and Pryor – voted against cloture. The two Independent Senators supported the vote, but all 42 Republicans withheld their support, claiming that the process cut them out of any ability to challenge specific spending items.

Since September, the Illinois special election removed one Democrat, replacing him with Republican Mark Kirk. But Sen. Pryor has announced that he will support DADT repeal and “will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year.” Unfortunately, his support is offset by Democratic Sen. Manchin who has now raised objections to the repeal. Thus, the count of all-but-certain votes for cloture are 53 Democrats and 2 Independents.

This means that five additional supporters are required from Republicans (and/or Sens. Lincoln and Manchin). There are currently two Republicans who have pledged support of repeal: Sen. Collins and Sen. Brown. But this support is conditional; Sen. Reid must allow Republicans to challenge and debate controversial provisions of the bill, including spending on certain programs that are believed to be based more on financial benefit to specific well-connected military contractors than on actual need. Reid, however, is fearful that unlimited debate would result in the hijacking of the process by endless irrelevant amendments intended to run out the clock.

And this may be the sticking point. Rumors are flying, and posturing, finger pointing, and accusations have begun. The Washington Post reports the position of Reid – as provided by an aide:

Reid has offered Collins a total of 15 amendments in order to get her to vote Yes — 10 for Repubicans and five for Democrats, the aide continues. Reid views this as a reasonable offer, because previous debates on defense authorization bills have had roughly this number of amendments offered, the aide adds.

But as of now, Collins has indicated this offer is “unsatisafctory,” the aide says. A Collins spokesperson denied this account in an email, but declined to elaborate.

I think it rather likely that this little battle will resolve itself. Senator Collins gains nothing by being portrayed as unreasonable and she is a experienced politician who is particularly skilled in crafting and controlling her image.

Assuming that Collins and Reid will find a mutually acceptable position (as, for now, I do), the question is just who else will vote for cloture. There are at least ten other possible supporting votes who are holding their cards close to their chest. We need three.

The President is reported to be calling Senators on both sides of the aisle.

UPDATE:
Senator Lieberman is refuting the claims made by Reid’s aide:

“Senator Collins has been working in good faith to achieve an agreement on the process to move forward with the defense bill that contains the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Lieberman said. ”I categorically reject reports by uninformed staffers who have suggested otherwise.”

Lieberman said he wants “those responsible for such baseless allegations” to stop immediately and work to get to an agreement to the defense authorization bill to the Senate floor.

“We are making progress toward an agreement to move forward on the defense bill that includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and I remain confident that we can reach an agreement, which is necessary before any vote on the motion to reconsider is taken,” Lieberman said.

If this turns out to be a posturing ploy from Reid’s office, it likely will backfire. Our community has become unwilling to accept the claims of Reid at face value.

DADT Cloture Vote May Come Up This Evening

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2010

Is this the end game for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s” repeal? Alex Nicholson at Servicemembers United smells more empty political posturing which, if true, could end up dooming DADT for at least the next two years:

If Senator Reid has received confirmation that Republican supporters of repeal are satisfied with the tax cuts deal, then the issue becomes the number of amendments and amount of floor time that Senator Reid is offering on the bill. As of this morning, it is our understanding that he is still lowballing his offer and presumably hoping that we will just blame ‘the Republicans.’ If he does not move his offer into the realm of reasonableness, then he will be intentionally throwing the vote when he brings it up.

Sound familiar?

Senate Republicans have already announced that they will block all bills in the Senate until the tax deal is worked out. Clearly that’s not the case yet, as many House and Senate Democrats are in open rebellion over the compromise reached by President Obama. Only two GOP votes are needed to break the Republican logjam, and Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are seen as two possibilities for achieving cloture for the Defense Authorization Bill which contains the measure repealing DADT. But as I see it, that’s a very shaking foundation for going forward. On every single vote — whether its health care reform or DADT repeal — in which Snowe and Collins were seen as potential bipartisan supporters, they have reliably refused to break ranks with the GOP every time. I would be dumbstruck if past behavior didn’t portend future behavior. And so the political theater continues.

Update: A spokesman for Susan Collins provides another soliloquy in this political theater:

Senator Collins has maintained that the Senate should be focused on taxes and the economy (especially since the tax provisions expire on January 1) and obviously we need to pass a bill funding the government before Friday.These are top priorities and there is limited time.

However, she believes there is time to consider other issues as well, and she has made it clear that if the Majority Leader brings the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, for example, and allows sufficient debate and amendments, she would vote to proceed to the bill.

You see, that’s how you say yes while actually saying no. And since Reid knows full well Collins’s position and is lowballing his offer anyway, he, too, is saying yes while actually saying no. They both just hope we’re too dumb to notice.

Update 2: Sen. Joseph Lieberman pushes back on the naysayers:

“Senator Collins has been working in good faith to achieve an agreement on the process to move forward with the defense bill that contains the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ I categorically reject reports by uninformed staffers who have suggested otherwise. As she always does, Senator Collins is working diligently and across party lines to find solutions to the challenges that confront our country. I call on those responsible for such baseless allegations to stop immediately and instead work to get to an agreement to bring this critical bill to the floor for Senate action.  

“We are making progress toward an agreement to move forward on the defense bill that includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and I remain confident that we can reach an agreement, which is necessary before any vote on the motion to reconsider is taken. I am working closely with Senator Reid and Senator Collins and other members who want to reach a fair and reasonable agreement to move the defense authorization bill that that is so essential to the needs of our troops, veterans, and their families.  

“It is now more clear than ever that we have 60 or more votes in support of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so it is vitally important to reach agreement on the right process to move forward.”

It’s that last part, “the right process to move forward,” which is the lynch pin.

DADT round-up

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2010

Yesterday the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense testified before Congress in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today the Service Chiefs testified with mixed messages.

Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said that he didn’t want repeal “at this time.” I think it’s pretty clear is that Gen. Amos doesn’t want repeal at any time under any circumstances due to his own personal prejudices.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. believes that DADT should be repealed eventually but not right now.

Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz thinks that the repeal should occur, but that the report is too optimistic. He recommended repeal, but that the change not take effect before 2012.

Only Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead supported the immediate repeal of the policy (LA Times)

Navy sailors routinely train and work in close quarters alongside the service members of allied navies that allow homosexuals to serve openly, said Roughead. After studying the integration of gay sailors into other navies over the past decade, Roughead described the impact on the effectiveness of the force as a “non-event.”

John McCain, of course, will not be listening to the Navy Chief. Rather, he has been obsessing over the subset of the Marines who oppose repeal. Do you get the impression that if the typists in the stenopool were the only servicepeople who opposed repealing the policy, that McCain would declare them to be the most essential part of the Military operation?

Meanwhile, everything is being held up by the Republican Senators’ cohesive effort to force a vote to extend current tax rates. (And no, this is not a tactic that was created to block DADT.) It is difficult to know whether this block will hold together should a compromise plan be proposed (one that does not define a couple making $250,000 in Los Angeles as “millionaires and billionaires” but draws a higher threshold.)

Eventually, the Defense Appropriations bill will go before the Senate. And even in the new Senate, there may not be enough Republican votes to uphold a filibuster.

To date, at least two Republican Senators have pledged support (and more are likely): Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer,” said Mr. Brown, who is in the Massachusetts National Guard. “As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”

Mr. Brown added, “I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

Meanwhile a very influential voice on the right has joined in calling for an end to the ban.

It is time to recognize the desires of all people competent to serve in our Military and afford them the opportunity to contribute to this noble, often thankless, but very necessary profession.

Dr. Laura was immensely proud of her son’s service in the Marines Army and would often reference it on her show. This endorsement carries a great deal of weight with her listeners.

Although there are various sound-bites that supporters and opponents can latch onto from the past two days of testimony, there is one thing on which all of the Chiefs agree: that legislative repeal will be far less disruptive than a judicial decision ending the policy. And they have good reason to fear just such a decision.

The ONLY defense provided by the Department of Defense in Log Cabin v. the US was that Congress was going to repeal the policy and that they should be allowed to do so. Should Congress fail to take such action, then there is no argument whatsoever that the government has left to make in the appeal to Log Cabin’s victory.

And Log Cabin will not play nice with the administration. They will undoubtedly file with the appeals court that the appeal be tossed out and that, at the very least, the current hold on the injunction be lifted. The Department of Defense can hardly claim a likelihood of success in the courts if they have nothing at all on which to base their defense.

There is a very real possibility that if Congress declines to enact a plan to roll out a gradual repeal, the courts could end the policy immediately. And while McCain would rather play Curmudgeon in Chief, those who care about defense policy should carefully consider the consequences of inaction.

DADT updates

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2010

It is difficult to determine exactly how the effort to repeal DADT will shake out in the “lame duck” session. There is a great deal of discussion, news, and movement, and at the moment most seems promising.

The President has finally gotten personally involved (Politico)

Wednesday, Obama – who advocates criticized for not doing enough to influence the Senate vote – called Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to “reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Wednesday afternoon.

And senior White House staff are involved with strategy

On Wednesday evening, several high-ranking administration officials and top members of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s staff met with gay rights advocates to review plans to bring the National Defense Authorization Act – an annual, must-pass military spending bill which contains language repealing the ban on gays in the military – to a vote in the coming weeks.

Republican Senator Collins and Independent-Democrat Senator Lieberman (the President’s point-person on the repeal) have written to the Secretary of Defense calling for the report on the Military survey to be issued in advance of the December 1 deadline so as to “alleviate some concerns” that Senators may have with repealing the policy.

Collins, who supported the repeal in committee and is committed to repeal, joined other Republicans and two Democrats earlier in the year to block a vote on the total Defense Authorization bill due to Sen. Reid’s unusual tactic of denying the ability of Republicans to introduce amendments to the bill. Support for allowing the usual debate has picked up support within the Democratic Caucus and so is less likely to be a sticking point. (Journal Constitution)

A dozen Democrats and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, urged Reid Thursday to allow an extended debate on the wide-ranging defense authorization bill, which includes language repealing the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Lieberman said the Senate’s desire to adjourn before the holidays was no reason to curtail debate and give Republicans an excuse to oppose the bill. Last September, GOP senators blocked the bill because Reid wouldn’t allow the two weeks of debate they said was needed to address such major legislation.

And it appears that if Reid honors that process, at least two Senators will break any filibuster attempt by Senator McCain. (Stars and Stripes)

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told reporters that he believes at least two Republicans will side with repeal advocates when the issue is brought back up for a vote — but with conditions.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Dick Lugar of Indiana have pledged to him in private that they’ll vote to allow debate to continue on the defense authorization bill, which includes the repeal measure, “so long as there is a fair and open amendment process,” he said.

Also, as a possibility, is newly elected Senator Kirk, who is seated immediately to finish out the term of Senator Burris. While Kirk voted against including the DADT repeal in the Defense Authorization bill while a member of the House, he was one of five Republicans to vote for the bill with the repeal included. And Kirk’s stated reason for not including the repeal was that it did preceded the findings of the study, an objection that will no longer be true for this vote.

And few, if any, Senators have joined Senator McCain’s effort to discredit the report. Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and was the sole Democrat to vote in committee against lifting the ban on open service, gave the report high praise (wonk room)

I can’t, again having spent five years in the Pentagon. I can’t remember a study on this type of issue that has been done with this sort of care. Not even having seen it or knowing the results, but I know the preparation that went into it. So it’s going to be a very important study for us to look at and examine.

The only down side may be that the final report will include the reaction and response of the four chiefs of the military divisions. If they are universally opposed to repeal, McCain will seek to use their opposition as a basis for keeping the policy. However, if even one or two are supportive of the plan for implementation of the repeal, this could go a long way towards providing cover for Senators on the fence.

Another odd selling point could be that repealing the ban could resolve tensions between the government and educational institutions. The president of Harvard, which has banned ROTC since 1969, has invited the military to reestablish a presence on the campus once DADT is gone. (Reuters)

“A ROTC program, open to all, ought to be fully and formally present on our campus,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. She made the comment to welcome an evening speech by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer.

Faust drew applause from the audience of several hundred for the offer to restore the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

So although it is still tentative and a lot could still go wrong, for the first time in a long while, I think that there is a better than decent chance that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed before the end of the year.

UPDATE: Wonk Room is reporting that Republican Senators Murkowski intends to vote for repeal. The Washington Blade has also added Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to the list of those in favor of repeal; his previous objection was to the timing of a vote before the survey was complete.

Sen. Collins: “I Cannot Vote to Proceed”

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s insistence on refusing to allow votes on amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill is having the feared effect of driving previous Republican supporters of the bill from voting for cloture. This is Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on the Senate floor:

They deserve to have a civil, fair and open debate on the Senate floor, and that is why I am so disappointed that rather than allowing full and open debate and the opportunity for amendments from both sides of the aisle, the majority leader apparently intends to shut down the debate and exclude Republicans from offering a number of amendments

…Now, Mr. President, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I support the provisions in this bill. I debated for them. I was the sole Republican in the committee that voted for the Lieberman-Levin language on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s only fair, I think we should welcome the service of these individuals who are willing and capable of serving their country. But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments.”

According to reports, Reid once had her vote, but he lost it when he made the decision to refuse to allow votes on Republican amendments. Others on the fence were George Lemieux (R-FL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME);, Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Jim Webb (D-VA), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Kit Bond (R-MO). It is unclear what effect Collins’ decision will have on the others.

The White House has issued a public statement supporting the Defense Authorization bill, but the Washington Blade quotes Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Trevor Thomas: “We have not seen any signs that the White House has been whipping this vote in the last 48 hours.”

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