Senate Owes it to Military to Bring up Defense Bill by Year End

While the clock is ticking for action on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year, time remains for the Senate to act.  The U.S. Senate owes it to the military to bring up and pass the National Defense Authorization Act along with repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before year’s end.

Today in a statement, HRC president Joe Solmonese said: “While some Senators will stop at nothing to put up procedural roadblocks, there remains time before the end of the year to strengthen our military by passing the defense bill with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal attached. The votes are there to allow for open service and now the only question is whether the political will also exists.”

Earlier today Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he believed the Senate should stay in session in order to finish work on the defense bill. In fact his spokesperson said: “Wanting to go home is not an acceptable excuse for failing to pass a bill that provides essential support for our troops and veterans and failing to take action that the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for.”

Senators of both parties need to ask themselves what excuses really matter if they believe that DADT has harmed our military and that repeal will not cause significant strains on the force.

In recent weeks, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as well as Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen have repeatedly expressed their desire that Congress act on DADT repeal before the end of this congressional session.

As Solmonese noted: “A failure of Congress to act now will tie the hands of military leaders who have asked for the power to implement a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The time for repeal is now.”

For out part, HRC field staffers remain in targeted states encouraging grassroots pressure on key Senators. This week, we’ll also launch an action alert to its members and supporters, adding to the 11.5 million take action e-mails sent on this issue, which generated over 550,000 e-mails urging repeal to members of Congress. HRC has also gathered nearly 50,000 pro-repeal handwritten communications to Congress and conducted more than 1,000 grassroots lobby visits. The organization is also engaged in an aggressive letters to the editor campaign and facilitating calls from veteran supporters of repeal direct to Senate offices.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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SLDN blasts Senate GOPers for holding Defense bill hostage to tax cuts: ‘This is unprecedented and it is shameful’

SLDN just sent out this statement:

“It is unprecedented that a tax reduction bill must pass before the Senate can act to fund our troops and the nation’s defense. We need to be clear about what’s happening here: the defense bill is being held hostage until Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John McCain get the tax bill they want to pass. This is unprecedented and it is shameful. The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate, debated, and passed before Congress leaves for the year. If the 42 GOP senators — including several who support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask’ — put process and procedure and tax cuts first, their continued delays and political jockeying will be an endorsement of the discrimination that has cost 14,000 men and women their jobs and threatened our country’s national security by discharging mission-critical service members,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Sure sounds like SLDN has had it with the games. And, they should be.




AMERICAblog Gay

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WH and Reid: Defense Authorization bill with DADT language will move to Senate floor in lame duck

I’m just going to post this entire joint press release from SLDN, HRC and CAPAF:

Key Senate leadership and Administration officials this evening met with representatives of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF). 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. 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.

Present at the meeting with representatives from HRC, SLDN and CAPAF 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 Majority Leader Reid; and Serena Hoy, Senior Counsel to Majority Leader Reid.

Interesting that the White House and Reid’s office were willing to name the participants of the meeting. Apparently, this is supposed to signal that they’re all really engaged. Better late then never, I guess.

Let’s not get too excited. This is just one step forward. There are still many hurdles to get over. The President, the Majority Leader and all of these meeting participants have a lot of work to do to make sure the bill get to the Senate floor — and passes.

The key to success lies in “the exact timing and procedural conditions.” We keep hearing that the Senate wants to go adjourn on December 10th. That can’t happen if this effort is going to succeed.

Greg Sargent is right: Action on DADT “could still happen, if the Dem leadership tries to make it happen.”




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Sen. Levin admits he may remove DADT from Defense Authorization

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, carries significant sway over what happens to the Defense Authorization bill. About 10 days ago, we heard rumblings that Levin was negotiating with McCain about removing the DADT language from the Defense Authorization bill. Today, Levin acknowledged it. So this wasn’t background noise after all:

The measure to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military may have to be dropped from the defense authorization bill in order to get the bill passed this year, said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).

“I’m trying to get the bill through Congress. I’m the committee chairman for a 900 page bill. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is two pages of 900 pages. My focus is different from the media focus. I’m just trying to get a bill passed,” Levin told reporters at the Capitol building on Tuesday.

While no final decisions have been made, Levin said one option was to separate the language on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from the rest of the bill, and then making two separate efforts to pass the both pieces of legislation.

“I’m trying to get both done. And if I can’t get both done, I want to get one of them done,” Levin said.

The one he really wants to get done is the Defense Authorization bill. This is not good. Not good at all. As Senator Udall told Kerry Eleveld:

I do think the best way to move this forward is in the NDAA and I do worry that if we don’t formalize the repeal process in statute now that we may not have this opportunity for a number of years in the future.

Removing the DADT language from the legislation is almost certain to kill it. There’s just not enough time left for the Senate to act. And, it probably didn’t help that there was an article in today’s Washington Post titled, “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ splitting gay rights groups.” Thanks for nothing, Palm Center.

Promises have been made, repeatedly. Promises have not been kept. On October 27th, the President said “there is a strategy” on DADT:

SUDBAY: Is there a strategy for the lame-duck session to –

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

SUDBAY: — and you’re going to be involved?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

SUDBAY: Will Secretary Gates be involved?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to tip my hand now. But there is a strategy.

I thought Obama understood that I meant I was asking if there is a strategy to pass the DADT language. Because, we haven’t seen anything close to that emerging. Time is running out. Earlier today, Atrios tweeted:

DADT has been one of those ‘shut up and trust us’ issues. so outcome will be revealing

It sure will be.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Palm Center Adds Voice to Those Willing to Support Putting Aside DADT Repeal to Pass Defense Bill

More from the Washington Post on the earlier news from the Palm Center, Outserve, and Knights Out that they're willing to support passing a Defense bill that is stripped of the DADT repeal provision.

Palm The Palm Center's statement to the WaPo? Their reasoning includes some sort of game of righteous one-upmanship to 'show' McCain:

McCain "has no rationale left, just prejudice," said Palm Center Deputy Director Christopher Neff. "The only rationale left is he's being anti-gay and has chosen to take an anti-gay position to scuttle the defense authorization bill." The groups spoke out in support of passing the authorization bill to demonstrate that unlike McCain, they're willing to put aside personal political priorities in the interest of addressing national security concerns in the bill, he said.

It's a risky political calculation that puts them in direct conflict with four larger groups more directly involved with lobbying efforts to end the ban: the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for American Progress, Servicemembers United and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson called the other groups' statement "absolute lunacy."

"It has been the position of the organizations that actually work on repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' to strongly oppose stripping the repeal language out of the defense authorization bill," Nicholson said in an e-mail. "That position has been based on the reality of the vote count, and those facts on the ground here in Washington have not changed."

More to come on this as it develops…


Towleroad News #gay

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The Department Of Defense Is EVER So Pissed About The Leaked DADT Survey

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is furious about the leaked DADT survey and has launched an investigation to find its source. In the meantime, today the Pentagon issued a super-annoyed press release.

Secretary Gates is very concerned and extremely disappointed that unnamed sources within the Department of Defense have selectively revealed aspects of the draft findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group, presumably to shape perceptions of the report prior to its release. The Secretary launched this review in March to objectively ascertain the impact of potential repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law on military readiness, effectiveness, recruiting, retention, unit cohesion and families. He made it clear then and throughout this process that it was ‘critical that this effort be carried out in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner.’ He has also stated clearly that ‘given the political dimension of this issue, it is equally critical that…every effort be made to shield our men and women in uniform and their families from those aspects of this debate.’

For nearly nine months the Working Group has operated in strict accordance to that mandate. Anonymous sources now risk undermining the integrity of this process. The Secretary strongly condemns the unauthorized release of information related to this report and has directed an investigation to establish who communicated with the Washington Post or any other news organization without authorization and in violation of Department policy and his specific instruction. The full report will be made public for all to review early next month. Until then, no one at the Pentagon will comment on its contents.

You gotta wonder how much of a hand Tony Perkins had in this response.

Joe. My. God.

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Udall, Lieberman and Gillibrand: Senate must pass defense bill including DADT compromise

Senators Renew Call To Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Lieberman, Udall, Gillibrand Urge Colleagues To Pass Defense Bill In Lame Duck

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) issued the following statement today urging the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy this year.

“The Senate should act immediately to debate and pass a defense authorization bill and repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ during the lame duck session. The Senate has passed a defense bill for forty-eight consecutive years. We should not fail to meet that responsibility now, especially while our nation is at war. We must also act to put an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that not only discriminates against but also dishonors the service of gay and lesbian service members.

“The National Defense Authorization Act is essential to the safety and well-being of our service members and their families, as well as for the success of military operations around the world. The bill will increase the pay of all service members, authorize needed benefits for our veterans and wounded warriors, and launch military construction projects at bases throughout the country.

“The process established by the defense bill would also allow ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to be repealed in an orderly manner, and only after the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have certified to Congress that repeal is ‘consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.’ If Congress does not act to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in an orderly manner that leaves control with our nation’s military leaders, a federal judge may do so unilaterally in a way that is disruptive to our troops and ongoing military efforts. It is important that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ be dealt with this year, and it appears that the only way that can happen is if it is on the defense bill.

“We are pleased that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also called on Congress to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We must act upon our responsibility to our troops and their family members and to the thousands of gay and lesbian service members who serve their nation bravely and honorably by passing the National Defense Authorization Act before the end of the year.”

This is an interesting line in the letter:

The bill will increase the pay of all service members, authorize needed benefits for our veterans and wounded warriors, and launch military construction projects at bases throughout the country.

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, and Democrats were filibustering a defense bill that gay pay rises to the troops. The Republicans would eviscerate us. They’d call us un-American troop haters. But we hear nothing of this sort from the White House or folks on the Hill, other than in this laudable letter from three Senators. Why don’t the rest of the Dems, and the White House, ever fight back?




AMERICAblog Gay

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Homophobe Ike Skelton being talked about as possible Secretary of Defense

I hope this is a joke. Putting one of the lead opponents of repealing DADT as Secretary of Defense? Yeah, that would be a wise move.

But speculation for the top Pentagon job in recent days has included two respected veterans on military matters, both with bipartisan credentials and hands-on experience: John J. Hamre, a deputy defense secretary in the Clinton administration who now leads the Center for Strategic and International Studies while running the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to Mr. Gates; and Ike Skelton, the Missouri congressman who lost his seat last week, and with it the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.

Then again, Obama appointed a staunch opponent of repealing DADT as the new Marine commandant, so don’t for a minute put this past him.




AMERICAblog Gay

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SU explains the path forward on Defense Authorization and DADT

Alex Nicholson explains the process and the players if the DADT language is going to pass “this year”:




AMERICAblog Gay

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BREAKING: Fed judge orders Obama Defense Department to stop enforcing DADT

UPDATE: Read between these lines – @KerryEleveld quoting Robert Gibbs:

“Obviously, there have been a number of court cases that have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in this case and the president will continue to work as hard he can to change the law that he believes is fundamentally unfair.”

Note from Louise: More press releases coming in (4pm EDT) and will be put up below the fold.

The fierce advocate finds himself painted into a LGBT equality corner three weeks before midterms by a federal judge. (The Advocate):

In a Tuesday ruling, U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ordered the Defense Department to “immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding” related to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In her order Phillips did not specify when the injunction would become effective. Justice Department attorneys are expected to appeal the injunction to the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit.



The ruling:

So what’s it going to be, Mr. President, Mr. Commander-in-Chief? Is the gay community’s equality a political football on this issue or is removing a policy banning gays and lesbians from serving in the military going to happen on your watch, on your authority now?

The President, who is himself a constitutional scholar, has been handed the golden opportunity to end DADT once and for all. A federal judge has now ruled that the gay ban is unconstitutional, and he has ordered the federal government to stop the discharges immediately. The President now has the power – given to him by a federal judge – to do the right thing, to do what he promised, to side with the civil rights community. All he has to do is not appeal, and DADT is over.

It’s a no-brainer. Even for this administration that is loathe to do anything bold, loathe to be seen as responsible for anything even slightly “controversial.” Well, now they have their out. It’s the judge’s fault. President Obama can simply choose not to appeal the case, to respect the judge’s decision, and DADT is over. It’s history.

Or the President can direct his Department of Justice to oppose the judge’s order, to appeal the case, and to defend DADT – to defend bigotry, to go down in history on the same side as those who chose to defend discrimination against another class of Americans earlier in the 20th century.

Reactions…

SU:

“This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and the sole named veteran plaintiff in the case along with the Log Cabin Republicans. “While this is certainly news to be celebrated, we would also advise caution in advance of a potential stay from the Ninth Circuit. If the appellate court wishes to put itself on the right side of history, however, it will allow this sound and long-over due decision to remain in effect.”

The case that won the injunction, Log Cabin Republicans vs. United States of America, was originally filed in 2004. Just last month, and after a two-week trial in July, Judge Phillips issued her final ruling in the case, finding that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was unconstitutional on first and fifth amendment grounds. She also indicated her intent to issue an injunction barring further discharges in light of that finding. A copy of the injunction can be found at www.ServicemembersUnited.org/injunction.

LCR:

Christian Berle, acting Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans

“After finding in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ violates servicemembers First and Fifth Amendment rights, a world-wide injunction was the only reasonable solution.  These soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines sacrifice so much in defense of our nation and our Constitution.  It is imperative that their constitutional freedoms be protected as well.  This decision is also a victory for all who support a strong national defense.  No longer will our military be compelled to discharge servicemembers with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination.  The United States is stronger because of this injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have brought the case that made it possible.”

Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans

“We are extremely pleased with Judge Phillips’s decision granting an immediate and permanent injunction barring the US military from carrying out its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  The order represents a complete and total victory for Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country.”

HRC:


HRC Statement on Injunction Barring DADT Enforcement

Solmonese: “The administration should comply with her order and stop enforcing this unconstitutional, unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence”

WASHINGTON - Today, federal district judge Virginia Phillips, following on her July decision striking down the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law in a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, ordered the Department of Defense to immediately cease enforcement of the statute barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the Armed Forces.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:


“The administration should comply with her order and stop enforcing this unconstitutional, unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence. The President has said this law harms our national security and we believe it would be a mistake to appeal the decision.  Each additional day that this unjust law remains in force is one more day the federal government is complicit in discrimination.”

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 GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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SLDN:



SLDN Statement on U.S. District Court Order to Suspend Investigations, Discharges Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”




WASHINGTON, D.C.
– Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), issued a statement today after U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ordered the Defense Department to “immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding” related to DADT.

Statement by SLDN Legal Director Aaron Tax:

“We applaud Judge Phillips for putting an immediate stop to all investigations and discharges under this unconstitutional law.  As explained by the judge, this order applies across the military.  This order bars the Department of Defense from enforcing or applying the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law against any person under its command.  We have clients under investigation and facing discharge right now.  We’ll be monitoring each case over the coming days.  This order will likely be appealed by the Justice Department and brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit where her decision may well be reversed.  The law still has a chance of being repealed in the lame duck session of Congress.  Service members must proceed safely and should not come out at this time.  Anyone in the armed forces with questions or concerns should call our hotline.”

“Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A journalists’ guide is available here.

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