Senate to take up DADT repeal in December

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The president’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

—  John Wright

SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer makes sense of all the latest developments on DADT

Dave Guy-Gainer

The Raw Story has posted a nice recap of the many developments of the last few days concerning the possible repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame-duck session of Congress – otherwise known as the possible repeal of DADT anytime before 2013.

In a nutshell, there are reports that Senate leaders plan to remove the amendment that would repeal DADT from a Defense spending bill, to facilitate the spending bill’s passage. And those reports from The Advocate and The Wall Street Journal have prompted some to conclude that DADT repeal is dead as a hammer. Meanwhile, on the same day that the new commandant of the Marine Corps spoke out against DADT repeal (Saturday), Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his desire to see the ban lifted. So what gives?

To make sense of it all, we turned to Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Here’s what Gainer said:

“It seems like in this week between the elections and the reconvening of the lame duck Senate, pundits and talking heads are coming out of the woodwork. Let me stick to the facts of today and avoid speculation. The bill to repeal DADT is still attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. The president has said that he wants the legislative branch to act. Secretary Gates has repeated that he would like to see the ban lifted. Well over 70 percent of the nation says that repeal is needed. The DOD report is due Dec. 1.  The newly elected members of the House and Senate won’t be seated in this session. Those who will be leaving are still there. None  of the advocacy groups who have fought for repeal have folded up tent and left the battlefield. For repeal to happen, we still need existing Republican Senators to do the right thing and vote for passage. We especially need our Log Cabin Republican allies, of whom I am most proud in the courts, to bring the Republican vote to the table. Surely, there are Republicans who would do the right thing and vote for repeal. DADT has been declared unconstitutional in lower federal courts and is winding its way through appeal. Congress could end it all in the next six weeks. The question is — will it?”

UPDATE: We asked Guy-Gainer whether there’s any hope that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would break ranks and provide one of the needed Republican votes in favor of repeal. Guy-Gainer’s response, and this is a direct quote, was, “<expletive deleted>.” Gainer went on to note that Texas isn’t on the list of states where SLDN is targeting key senators. Below is the list, and SLDN is again urging people to contact these folks by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Harry Reid (D-NV);
–Carl Levin (D-MI);
–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
–Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Joe Manchin (D-WV)
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
–Mark Kirk (R-IL)


—  John Wright

Tell your senators Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez from Paradise, Texas, wants his damn job back!

Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez

We received an e-mail on Wednesday from Cpl. Danny Hernandez, a Marine discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” who came out to his family earlier this year by, of all things, writing an open letter to President Barack Obama. Hernandez, who’s from the small town of Paradise northwest of Fort Worth and graduated from Texas A&M University last year, now lives in Washington and is working with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Here at Instant Tea we’ve been pretty hard on Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn lately, but Hernandez has a point: He says that although the two “have not been very helpful with this effort, we cannot remain complacent.”

“We cannot give up without having our voices heard,” Hernandez says. “Never in the seventeen years that this law has existed have we been so close to victory. … I hope to be wearing my uniform again soon.”

Below is Hernandez’s full e-mail including contact numbers for Hutchison and Cornyn. So what are you waiting for? You haven’t called yet?

Texas Friends and Allies –
As a Texan, an Aggie and a Marine discharged because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I am asking for your help.

Just two nights ago Senator Harry Reid announced that the vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal of DADT, will be scheduled for next week. The momentum is high, but the fight is not over. We need your support.

Join Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Lady Gaga, Senator Reid, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and all of our supporters across the nation in helping repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Here’s what you can do:

Call Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
DC Office: 202-224-5922
Austin Office: 512-916-5834
San Antonio Office: 210-340-2885
Abilene Office: 325-676-2839
Dallas Office: 214-361-3500
Harlingen Office: 956-425-2253
Houston Office: 713-653-3456

Call Senator John Cornyn
DC Office: 202-224-2934
Austin Office: 512-469-6034
Houston Office: 713-572-3337
Harlingen Office: 956-423-0162
Lubbock Office: 806-472-7533
San Antonio Office: 210-224-7485
Tyler Office: 903-593-0902
Dallas Office: 972-239-1310

Tell them that as a Texan, you urge them to vote with Senator Reid and Senator Carl Levin in opposing the filibuster, defeat amendments to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments that would hinder the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

We cannot give up without having our voices heard. Never in the seventeen years that this law has existed have we been so close to victory.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I hope to be wearing my uniform again soon.

Warmly,
Danny Hernandez (former USMC Lance Corporal)

—  John Wright

Sen. John Cornyn calls Reid’s plan for vote on DADT repeal ‘cynical and politically transparent’

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told The Hill on Tuesday that he believes Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to consider a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” as part of a defense spending bill  is “a cynical and politically transparent move.”

Cornyn didn’t say whether Republican senators plan to filibuster the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act over the DADT repeal provision, or whether he would join such a blockade.

“I know that leadership is asking members about their inclination, and I don’t know that that’s been whipped yet,” he told The Hill.

A spokesman for Cornyn, who’s never cast a single vote in support of LGBT equality, told Dallas Voice in June that he would oppose the DADT repeal measure.

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

Cornyn has accepted an invitation to appear at the Log Cabin Republicans’ National Dinner in Washington later this month, and he has pledged to seek “common ground” with gay members of the GOP.

But if that common ground doesn’t include repealing a policy that 78 percent of Americans oppose, we’re at a loss as to where in hell it could possibly lie.

Actually, no we’re not. We’re pretty sure that by “common ground” Cornyn means “money” and “votes.” Talk about politically transparent!

—  John Wright

If Senate doesn’t vote on DADT repeal in September, it may not happen for several years

Both the Human Rights Campaign and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network issued action alerts Thursday warning that if the Senate doesn’t take up the National Defense Authorization Act soon, the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” will be in serious danger.

“If the defense budget bill doesn’t move to the Senate floor by the end of this month, DADT repeal may not happen for several more years,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said.

HRC on Thursday announced a National Call-In Day for DADT Repeal on Friday:

“While many believe repeal of this odious law is a foregone conclusion, the real truth is that this is not yet a done deal,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “If the more than 75 percent of fair-minded Americans who recognize this as a failed law do not speak up, a small group of Senators with their own narrow political agendas could win out.”

Congress returns Monday from their August recess and will have only several weeks of work before breaking again for the upcoming November elections.  Senate leaders have indicated that the defense bill — to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached — is on a list of possible bills on which they may vote.

“We’ve had to fight to the end for every victory we’ve won, and this is no different,” added Solmonese. “If we don’t speak up now, our window for repeal could close.”

HRC will launch a full national action alert tomorrow encouraging members and supporters to contact their Senators immediately and ask that they push for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the next four weeks.

Here in Texas, we know that calling our senators is futile. As an alternative, SLDN suggests for everyone to call these key senators:

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

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
(202) 224-2541

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
(202) 224-2235

—  John Wright