Groups try to block GOP efforts to kill or weaken DADT legislation

Posted on 04 Aug 2010 at 1:45pm

Last night, The Hill reported on the SLDN/HRC lobbying effort on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We wrote about that campaign here.

Included in the article is more background on the expected efforts by Republicans to kill DADT repeal. The danger comes from a potential amendment to expand the already complicated certification process:

Senate Republicans, backed by Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.), are eyeing a provision that would require all service chiefs to certify that a repeal can be implemented consistent with those military standards listed above.

The way the congressional provisions are written now, only Obama, Gates and Mullen have to provide that certification.

In letters solicited by McCain, the service chiefs in May said they wanted Congress to delay voting on the issue until Dec. 1, after the Pentagon finishes a review of how the military should carry out the changes.

One problem would be that change to the certification language. It would mean that seven people get to sign off on the certification instead of the three initially proposed by the Center for American Progress’ Winnie Stachelberg, who took full credit for developing the certification compromise. It’s our understanding that she worked with Jim Messina on that language. Of course, what we’re seeing now is that Stachelberg created an opportunity for opponents of repeal. (It’s still not clear how Winnie Stachelberg, who has no LGBT constituency, managed to insert herself into this process.) If this thing fails, she owns a lot of the blame. Imagine if the President had actually lobbied for the initial repeal language — for an actual repeal of DADT, which this proposal does not guarantee — even making one or two phone calls to key Senators could have made all the difference. But, no. Messina and Stachelberg negotiated with themselves, and came up with a proposal that doesn’t even require a full repeal to ever happen. And, the LGBT groups, including those that represent servicemembers, were presented with the compromise as a fait accompli.

This same article explains the perils that lie ahead:

Gay-rights groups argue that the Republicans’ proposal to include the service chiefs in the certification process would be “a killer amendment” that would delay a repeal of “Don’t ask” for years.

Supporters of repeal are fighting any efforts to change the existing provision in the Senate. They want to make sure it is similar to the one passed in the House so that it does not become an item of negotiation between the two chambers when they write the final defense authorization bill, Sarvis explained.

So, the potential amendment to the Stachelberg certification language will 1) either delay repeal for years, or 2) make the DADT repeal language a subject that can be debated in conference, where advocates for repeal will be outnumbered by foes of repeal.

And now there’s growing concern that the Senate won’t take up the Defense authorization bill in September, leaving it until the lame duck session. That doesn’t bode well for us, since the Democrats have a history of avoiding “controversial” legislation during lame duck sessions — DADT repeal isn’t controversial anywhere but in Washington DC, it polls around 70% in practically every poll. And if they don’t take DADT up now or during the lame duck session, there’s concern that after the mid-term elections this November Democrats won’t touch our issues for years to come.

If we’re going to get the repeal done this year — or get the current compromise, which isn’t great, but it’s all we’ve got — the President is going to have to become engaged. Very engaged.




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