BREAKING: Sens Collins (R-ME) and Lieberman (I-CT) To Introduce Stand Alone DADT Repeal Bill

Below the fold, the newly issued statement from President Obama regarding today’s Senate vote on the NDAA/ DADT repeal bill.

From this Tweet came the news:


RT @JoeLieberman: @SenatorCollins and I and others are introducing a free standing bill to repeal #DADT today.

And now this press release from HRC, confirming:


On the free-standing bill:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2010

Last Best Chance Option Surfaces for DADT Legislative Repeal This Year

Senators Lieberman & Collins Propose Stand-Alone Repeal Measure

WASHINGTON - Today the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, praised the bipartisan proposal under the leadership of Sens. Lieberman and Collins that emerged this evening to pass repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a stand-alone piece of legislation.  The news comes from a bipartisan group of Senators after today’s failed vote to proceed to debate on the National Defense Authorization Act.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:


“There has always been strong support in the Senate for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and in recent days it’s become clear that support reaches far beyond 60 votes. The issue has been the procedure by which the defense bill would be considered and given that no agreement was in place before today’s vote on the motion to proceed, that effort was doomed to failure.

“Thankfully a bipartisan group of Senators has committed to finding an alternative method of achieving repeal.  We encourage all Senators to expeditiously take up this bill and pass it quickly so that the military has the power to implement a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

“The fight for open service has had many twists and turns but until ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is left in the dustbin of history we will never give up the fight.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

# # #

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as info, links and video becomes available.  ~Louise
From the White House:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 9, 2010

Statement by the President on the Senate Vote on the National Defense Authorization Act

I am extremely disappointed that yet another filibuster has prevented the Senate from moving forward with the National Defense Authorization Act.  Despite having the bipartisan support of a clear majority of Senators, a minority of Senators are standing in the way of the funding upon which our troops, veterans and military families depend. This annual bill has been enacted each of the past 48 years, and our armed forces deserve nothing less this year.

A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian.  A great majority of the American people agree.  This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, and Senators Lieberman and Collins for all the work they have done on this bill.  While today’s vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts.  I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session.

###

—–

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Big DADT update. Are Reid and Collins helping or hurting on DADT?

Things are moving fast on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here is the latest.

1. It appears that the President is finally engaged. Joe and I have heard from our sources on the Hill, and reporters have also heard, that the President is in fact calling members of the Senate, including Republicans, on behalf of the DADT compromise. I hope I don’t eat my words on this, but this appears to be good news, and is most welcome and necessary.

2. There’s some debate as to whether Harry Reid or Susan Collins are playing fairly or playing games.

First Reid. While there are reports that Senator Reid is talking about bringing DADT up for a vote this afternoon – it would in fact be a vote to break the GOP filibuster of the underlying defense bill, and then we’d have a vote on a possible filibuster of DADT itself (actually several votes are likely). The concern is whether we yet have the 60 votes we need to break the filibuster, and thus whether it’s wise to move forward with a vote. While some might argue that a vote is always a good thing, as it’s good to get Senators on the record for where they stand on the issue, and that is sometimes correct (as it calls the bluff of those saying they’ll vote “no”), often times you really don’t want to hold a vote you’re going to lose. A losing vote can cause Senators to walk away from future votes, arguing that they shouldn’t be wasting time and forcing them to make difficult votes on something that isn’t going to pass anyway.

(I know the usual apologists are promoting the notion that per se it’s a good thing to bring DADT up for a vote, regardless of what happens. That’s a lie. And they know it. But they’re apologists, who are either trying to get clients, or curry favor for their next job. Look at their track record of defending the administration on this process over the last two years, and on things like the DOMA incest/pedophilia brief – then ignore them.)

So, the concern overall would be whether Senator Reid is calling the vote to simply show that “he tried,” regardless of whether we lose.

Now to Susan Collins. There is growing concern that she’s playing us, which would be unfortunate. Collins has been saying that she wants ample time to debate the bill and offer amendments. And that’s a fair request. But just how much time, and how many amendments, does Senator Collins want? No one knows. You can’t have unlimited debate, because that’s called a filibuster – and surely Senator Collins isn’t proposing that we just let folks filibuster the Defense bill, because we know John McCain, among others, would do just that. You have to have a set number of days and/or amendments that are limited in time and scope, or the bill will go on forever. So what would Senator Colins find acceptable? Again, no one seems to know.

Senator Reid has reportedly offered Collins a total of 15 amendments, 10 for Republicans and 5 for Democrats. That sounds awfully fair, especially giving the GOP twice as many amendments as our side gets. We’re hearing that Collins won’t accept this. Historically, look how many amendments there were on this bill in the past few years:

Last year, there were 11 votes total, with 6 Republican amendments.

In 2008, there were 2 votes total, one per side.

In 2007, when there were 22 amendment votes, Republicans received 10 of those votes.

Looking at that history, 15 sounds awfully fair, and giving two thirds of the amendments to the GOP is downright unprecedented in its generosity, for recent times.

Is is possible that Senator Collins is being an honest broker here? Absolutely. But to prove she’s being honest, she needs to tell us what specifically she wants, in terms of amendments and time spent on the bill, so we can judge whether she is trying to save DADT repeal, or whether she is trying to kill set back our civil rights struggle. Her answer, or lack thereof, will speak volumes.

Let’s hope she wants to be a hero.

PS More from Sam Stein, who reports there’s some talk about putting the defense bill, sans DADT it would seem, into a continuing resolution. They’d better not dare.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Portland calls on Sens. Collins and Snowe for Repeal

After a great Thanksgiving holiday with my family, I am back out on the road. Each year, I am especially thankful for all the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces to ensure my freedom. Now that I am back out, I am headed to Portland, Maine, where we are already hard at work in our efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Yesterday, HRC teamed up with Organizing for America and Equality Maine in beautiful Portland for a phone bank to urge Mainers to contact Senators Collins and Snowe about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in this lame-duck session of Congress.  The law discriminates against gay, lesbian and bisexual military members, and it is long overdue for repeal. We were able to contact many constituents who agreed to call their Senators right after our conversations. Many even agreed to join us in the fight to repeal by signing up to volunteer for our next phone bank. It was great to see Mainers stay involved with the campaign after a hectic election cycle and after getting stuffed for the holiday.

Even after learning the positive results of the Pentagon’s study about open service and military readiness, we continue to put pressure on the Senate to vote for repeal. The study shows that a strong majority of our men and women in uniform and their families have no issue with gays and lesbians serving their country openly.

If you have already called, emailed or visited your Senators about repealing DADT, please do it again. We are so close to victory.  We are in a state of emergency of now and we need all hands on deck.  Contact your friends, your family, your neighbors and ask them to call their Senators and urge them to vote for repeal.  To call your Senators, call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senators to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If you’d like to volunteer with us in Maine, please contact Jessica Osborn at Jessica.osborn@hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

A challenge for Senator Collins on DADT: Side with equality or cave to GOP leadership (again)

Yesterday, we saw this via HuffPostHill:

COLLINS STILL MAKING ZERO SENSE ON DADT – Susan Collins, who supports repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is continuing to concoct reasons to vote against it. The Wall Street Journal, new home of Patrick O’Conner, reported that she would oppose cloture if she didn’t get some debate or amendments or some such. Not so, her office tells Jason Linkins: “Senator Collins has not said she would oppose cloture if time is not allowed for debate. In fact, she has said she supports repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and she intends to support cloture on the Defense Authorization bill if the Majority Leader allows for a full and fair debate.” Um, that’s the same thing.

Here’s the full excerpt from Danny Yadron and Patrick O’Connor at the WSJ:

The House passed a measure to repeal the policy this spring, but Senate Republicans in September blocked a defense spending bill that included a repeal.

It’s unclear if any of that will change after today’s announcement. Sen. Susan Collins, a centrist Republican from Maine who says she wants the ban repealed, still plans to vote against the repeal if there is not more time for debate, her spokesman said Monday.

Yep. Same thing. Makes no sense.

We know why. Collins isn’t making sense because of this:

Senate Republicans intend to block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current postelection session of Congress, officials said Tuesday, adding that the leadership has quietly collected signatures on a letter pledging to carry out the strategy.

If carried out, it would doom Democratic-backed attempts to end the Pentagon’s practice of discharging openly gay members of the military service and give legal status to young illegal immigrants who join the military or attend college.

Orders have come down from Mitch McConnell. Has Susan Collins signed the letter? We need to know.

On DADT, Collins is key. She voted for the DADT language in the Senate Armed Services Committe last May. She’s considered something of a pro-LGBT champion, on paper anyway. HRC’s PAC has contributed ,000 to Collins. Given that record, if Collins won’t vote to end the filibuster, we can’t expect any other GOPers to do it.

In September, Collins chose the bogus argument of process over equality and voted with her GOP colleagues to filibuster the Defense Authorization bill. She basically said that not getting her way on amendments was the same as getting kicked out of the military for being gay. Ridiculous. But, the GOP leader told her how to vote and she did.

Now, we’re faced with the same question of whether Collins votes for equality or caves to Mitch McConnell. He’s the puppet-master. And, let’s face it, Collins rarely stands on principle. She usually does what McConnell wants. She’ll hide behind the bogus excuse that the process isn’t fair. But, notice, she won’t define for anyone what a “fair debate” is.

Collins knows this is the last shot for legislative repeal to move forward. She knows her newly empowered GOP colleagues won’t move repeal in the next Congress. If Collins votes to block movement on the Defense bill, the failure to pass the DADT language rests on her shoulders, too.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

What exactly does ‘fair and open amendment process’ actually mean to Senators Collins and Lugar?

We keep hearing that some GOP Senators will support bringing the Defense Authorization bill to the floor. Via Kerry Eleveld’s report on the Senate Press conference yesterday:

I am confident that we have more than 60 votes prepared to take up the defense authorization with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ if only there will be a guarantee of a fair and open amendment process, in other words, whether we’ll take enough time to do it,” Lieberman told reporters at a press conference, naming GOP senators Susan Collins and Richard Lugar as yes votes. “Time is an inexcusable reason not to get this done.”

Here’s my question: What exactly does “fair and open amendment process” mean to Senators Collins and Lugar? Are they going to tell us in advance — or will they keep moving the goal line (think Grassley and Snowe during the health care debate.) And, what happens when Mitch McConnell brings down the hammer on them? Let’s be clear: The Senate Republican leaders have already made their decision — they will filibuster the Defense bill over DADT. Will Collins, Lugar and the other allegedly pro-repeal GOPers cave, like they usually do, but offer some lame-ass procedural excuse?

One has to wonder if Lugar, Collins and other GOP Senators want to face the wrath of John McCain. He’s known for his extremely volatile temper and he’s become obsessed with blocking the DADT language from passing. Look at how quickly he got his wife to flip-flop on DADT after she told the world it’s one of the reasons gay kids are killing themselves.

We need a transparent process here. Obviously, this blog has been unabashed about holding Democrats accountable — and we will continue to do that. But, we need to know the specifics of what Collins and Lugar want the process to look like. Then, we can gauge if they’re playing fair, too.

And, I included this paragraph from the NY Times in the post below, but it bears repeating:

Leaders of the new House Republican majority have indicated that repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not a priority for them, making it unlikely they would approve the bill again. That means if the repeal language is not approved by the end of this year, it will be effectively dead.

That’s right. And, it will be dead for a long time. This is our best shot. Those are the stakes. That is what Obama, Reid, Collins, Lieberman, Lugar and the rest need to remember.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Lieberman and Collins call for DOD to release DADT study early

He’s an independent and she’s a Republican.  This is great of Susan  Collins to do this.  From Josh Gerstein:

On Monday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, sent a letter (viewable here) to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to make the highly-anticipated report public “as soon as possible” to improve the chances that a conditional repeal of the ban on gays in the military – currently attached to a must-pass defense authorization bill – will become law before the clock runs out on the lame-duck session next month.

“Some of our colleagues in the Senate share our view about the importance of passing a defense bill but they are awaiting release of the working group’s report before agreeing to begin debate on the bill,” they wrote. The report, they continue, “will help inform their understanding and alleviate some concerns they may have…. Given the limited amount of time remaining in the 111th Congress, the soonest possible release of the working group’s report could therefore be instrumental in allowing the defense bill to move forward.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

For Susan Collins, DADT repeal is outweighed by GOP amendment ‘rights’

GOP amendments have a moral equivalency to DADT repeal, according to Senator Susan Collins. Both aren’t fair. Of course, one involves the lives of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and one is about the usual GOP obstructionist tactics. That’s not equal. She’s choosing the procedure over the equality.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Maine Senators Snowe and Collins Release Statements on DADT As Senate Prepares to Vote on Cloture

In their write-up of the SLDN – Lady Gaga rally in Maine, the NYT posts responses from the two senators (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) which the rally, which took place in Portland, meant to pressure:

Soldier In an e-mail message, Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Ms. Collins, said she was the only Republican on the Armed Forces committee to vote for a repeal and “She believes that our Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country.” However, she is calling for an open debate and allowing members to offer amendments.

In a statement, Ms. Snowe said the law is due "for a thorough review," but wants a comprehensive review complete before a vote is taken.

Here's Snowe's full statement.

The White House offered a lame statement.

If you haven't called your senator, now is the time.

According to Alex Nicholson at Servicemembers United, here's what's happening tomorrow on DADT:

Tomorrow the Senate will vote at 2:15pm on cloture for the motion to proceed to debate on NDAA. All that means is that we need 60 votes tomorrow to move forward.

The good news is that we had the 60 votes lined up (a few more than 60, in fact) and we were ready to move forward as NDAA normally does. The bad news is that Senator Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, just changed the terms of the debate to slight even the moderate Republicans who were lined up to vote with us to break the filibuster.

So now, this is where we are… either Senator Reid needs to change his mind and let at least some Republicans have an amendment or two of their own, or one or two Republicans need to vote to break the filibuster without the ability to offer any of their own amendments to other areas of NDAA. 

So there are two things you can do:

1. You can call Senator Reid's office and tell him to return to the original terms of amendments and debate for NDAA (the orginal terms that had us the 60 votes locked down).

and/or

2. You can call the 5 Republicans who were either going to or likely to vote to break the filibuster under the original terms of debate for NDAA (Susan Collins, Dick Lugar, George Voinovich, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown) and ask them to vote to break the filibuster anyway.

My suggestion is that we all do BOTH! No one can be let off the hook here. Please call these senate offices today and tomorrow. Numbers are below.

Alex Nicholson
Executive Director
Servicemembers United

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader
(202) 224-3542

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
(202) 224-2523

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN)
(202) 224-4814

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)
(202) 224-3353

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
(202) 224-5344

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)
(202) 224-4543

Here's the Washington Post's look at tomorrow's vote:

"The vote is expected to be close but is almost certain to pass if Democrats can break a Republican-led filibuster. The House passed a similar measure in May, and a House-Senate compromise version is expected to pass both chambers after the November midterm elections. But even if Tuesday's vote succeeds, Senate aides said Republicans may introduce an amendment this week that would remove the repeal from the defense bill."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Monday: Veterans, Lady Gaga to Maine to press Sens. Snowe, Collins to break DADT filibuster

BREAKING VIA TWITTER: @ladygaga Meet me in Portland, Maine 2moro, 9/20 to help repeal #DADT. I’m holding a Rally + speaking live in Deering Oaks Park http://bit.ly/cO4cY9

– Lady Gaga to her 6.3 million followers today

And she is marshalling her forces with focus — on Maine, a state with two Republican senators — who may be convinced to vote with Dems to break any McCain filibuster on DADT repeal language in the Def Auth bill. (SLDN):

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), will be holding a grassroots rally with young people near the University of Southern Maine campus on Monday, September 20, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. ET, at Deering Oaks Park, Portland, ME, in a major Senate push to break the expected filibuster by Sen. John McCain of the National Defense Authorization Act, to which repeal is included.  The key U.S. Senate vote is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

The votes to break McCain’s filibuster are not there.  We need Sens. Snowe and Collins on board; they’re key to us breaking the filibuster,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.  ”With the vote less than 48 hours away, we need everyone supporting repeal to call the Senate.  We’re bringing gay and straight service members to Portland to help make the case.  And we’re proud to have the support of Lady Gaga to bring grassroots attention to repeal at a critical hour.  Like Lady Gaga, all New England senators, indeed all 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans, need to engage in a real debate on this issue, and not just posture and spin this week over procedure and Senate rules.”

As we saw during the VMAs, Lady Gaga attended with service members affected by DADT (photo), and SLDN director of communications, Trevor Thomas, has acknowledged that the influence of Gaga on the lobbying process has made a substantial impact, and it’s needed again to reach out to even more people in the next 48 hours. (via Kerry Eleveld):

“We know that Lady Gaga can move young people,” Thomas said, noting that she has more followers on twitter than the president (@ladygaga edges out @BarackObama by nearly a million followers). He added that SLDN had been sending action alerts to its 80,000 subscribers asking them to call their senators for the past several weeks. Short of the Gaga intervention, he said his organization would simply be sending out the same action alert on Monday that it did on Friday.

The power of celebrity combined with the reach of social networking has changed the game for activism and spreading the word on short notice. It’s a larger reach than a press release or mailing list when you’ve got a clock ticking down on a critical legislative matter like this. Lady Gaga deserves incredible kudos for harnessing the energy of young people out there to press allies — and potential allies — to act.

Note: 1,000,000+ watched Lady Gaga’s call to action online; and 237,131 people visited SLDN’s action Site as a result — 91.62% were first-time visitors.

For tomorrow’s event, follow the Twitter hashtag: #4the14k – “For the 14,000″: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Lady Gaga and SLDN will rally for DADT repeal in Portland, ME – targeting Collins & Snowe

This is BIG. Lady Gaga just tweeted:

Meet me in Portland, Maine 2moro, 9/20 to help repeal #DADT. I’m holding a Rally + speaking live in Deering Oaks Park http://bit.ly/cO4cY9

Yes, our truly fierce advocate is on her way to my hometown, Portland, Maine, to hold a rally with SLDN to push for the repeal of DADT. The targets are Maine’s Republican Senators: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

The rally, called “For the 14,000”: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged” is tomorrow at 4:00 PM Eastern in Deering Oaks Park. For you tweeters, the hashtag is #4the14k.

This is very, very strategic on the part of SLDN and Lady Gaga.

Here’s what SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis said, via press release:

The votes to break McCain’s filibuster are not there. We need Sens. Snowe and Collins on board; they’re key to us breaking the filibuster. With the vote less than 48 hours away, we need everyone supporting repeal to call the Senate. We’re bringing gay and straight service members to Portland to help make the case. And we’re proud to have the support of Lady Gaga to bring grassroots attention to repeal at a critical hour. Like Lady Gaga, all New England senators, indeed all 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans, need to engage in a real debate on this issue, and not just posture and spin this week over procedure and Senate rules.

So, that’s the situation. It’s dire.

As Aubrey notes, right now, we don’t have the 60 votes to break the GOP filibuster of the Defense Authorization. Senator Susan Collins already voted for that very bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 27, 2010. Collins is now playing partisan procedural games to rationalize her support for the filibuster. It’s gross. Maine’s other Senator, Olympia Snowe, should do the right thing, too. She is playing the same game.

The usual lobbying tactics aren’t working. So, desperate times call for new and innovative tactics. And, this is one of the most sophisticated lobbying efforts I’ve seen in a long time.

They’re taking the fight right to Collins and Snowe — in a way that no other issue or group has. This event will be noticed in Maine. It’s so much smarter than bringing another celebrity to DC, where political media is so cynical. Again, Gaga has over 6,390,000 followers on twitter. And, she’s got over 18,255,000 fans on Facebook. No political organization in DC has anything that compares to that kind of outreach.

The 14,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT and the 60,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers still serving have been waiting 17 years for this vote. It’s not a political or procedural game for them — it’s their lives and they’re willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us. And, the time is now.

Lady Gaga has been using her extensive bully pulpit to elevate the DADT repeal issue for the past several weeks. It’s been very, very impressive. (Meanwhile, despite the impending vote and the GOP filibuster, President Obama has been largely silent on this issue, which, sadly, is not a surprise.)

This week, the action is in the Senate. Collins and Snowe are the targets. Now, they can’t hide. They’re going to have a very powerful spotlight on them, thanks to Lady Gaga and SLDN.

Maine is the best chance we have. If Collins and Snowe abandon the gay and lesbian servicemembers, it could be a long time before we get another vote.

I’ll have more as events unfold…the next two days are going to be wild.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright