Senator Gillibrand Named to Senate Armed Services Committee

Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a strong ally during efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, was named to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) for the 112th Congress. Along with other Congressional allies, Gillibrand fought to make repeal legislation a reality in 2010, and has been at the front of efforts to allow service members to serve openly since coming to the Senate in 2009.

Sen. Gillibrand previously sat on the House Armed Services Committee when she represented New York’s 20th District in the House.

“One of the reasons I came to Congress was to strengthen our national security and serve as a voice for our troops and military families,” said Gillibrand. “I am honored to once again serve on the Armed Services Committee to continue fighting for America’s troops and veterans.”

During the coming year, Gillibrand will join Sen. Joe Lieberman and the SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin on the committee, as they work with the Department of Defense to dismantle the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” law, and oversee the transition to open service.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Senator Gillibrand stumps for Marriage Equality on The View

New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand cause a stir yesterday calling “marriage equality” one of the main issues she wants to work on in the time leading up to her 2012 election. It was made note of at Towelroad, Good As You, JoeMyGod, and Freedom to Marry blog.

Tacking away from economic issues she says:

“But there are other issues, I also want too work on marriage equality. I want to make sure everyone in this country can be married to the people they love.”

The comment is met with great applause by the studio audience and even a affirmative head bob from View Co-host Sherri Sheppard, who has had a rocky relationship with the gay community, on the issues of Prop 8 and HIV. Sherri? We embrace your evolution.

Let's also hope this is a sign that Gillibrand may be ready to join fellow New Yorker Jerry Nadler's House effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Nadler introduced H.R.3567 – Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, that would repeal DOMA in full. More on this bill here from Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry. The Senate could use a champion on this issue as no one ever introduced a Senate companion bill.

While it's probably true that actual chances for repeal of DOMA are remote in the 112th Congress (to understate it), that doesn't mean we can't work to shore up support and sponsors, so it can move more quickly when the time is right (2013?).

And of course, there is the unofficial bully pulpit Gillibrand holds in the Empire State. LezGetReal is reporting that State Senator Tom Duane intends to file the marriage equality bill “within weeks” and push for a vote by June. Melanie Nathan says Hopes are High for Marriage Equality in New York:

However, now Duane and other marriage equality supporters believe with the election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in his State of the State address earlier this month and his appointment yesterday of Erik Bottcher, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s liaison to the gay community, to a newly created cabinet post, the dynamic has changed to their favor.

They also see Cuomo’s poll numbers as a big plus for their cause… 68% of New Yorkers say they trust him to do the right thing for the state.

“I think the governor is starting in a strong political place with the people on his side and the wind at his back,” said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

We can press this new cabinet member, Bottcher, to also make sure that the GENDA bill moves forward this year. Offering discrimination protection to the trans community, the New York Assembly passed it last session, only to have it killed in the Senate. Washington Blade reported Jan 13:

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the “political dynamic remains very promising” for passing a same-sex marriage bill as well as a transgender civil rights bill in New York.

Gillibrand is distinguishing herself as a real fierce advocate and a real star in the Senate. The entire segment is available here. She gave a report on her visit to her friend Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, calls Sarah Palin's remarks after the Tucson incident “not helpful” and “inappropriate.” She shows in this, and her recent Daily Show appearance, a real charisma for mass market TV appearances. Hopefully we'll see more of this. She is also credited with helping Senior Senator Chuck Schumer evolve into supporting marriage equality. She's a very good one to have in our corner.

Certainly, there are few people in the Empire State that won't pick up the phone when their assistant says, “Senator Gillibrand on line one.”

And, if history's any indication, few people will hang the phone up unpersuaded.

  • It's a good news week for marriage equality all around. Good news comes from a Daily Kos commissioned poll on this issue. Results showed that “conventional wisdom” that marriage equality is a loser with racial minorities seems to be in question.
  • In other news, the Supreme Court of the US told foes of marriage equality in DC they can stuff it. They rejected their challenge to the law, and request that marriage equality be put up to a popular vote via ballot initiative. More details here.

With the gays winning big Sunday Night at the Golden Globes, Maggie Gallagher and her friends at NOM must have their hands full in damage control this week. Isn't that shame?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Watch: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Commits Herself to Nationwide Marriage Equality on ‘The View’


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) appeared on The View today and reiterated her commitment to passing marriage equality in New York and across the country.

Said Gillibrand: "I also want to work on marriage equality. I want to make sure that everyone in this country can be married to the people they love."


(via good as you)

Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Pledges To Work Towards Marriage Equality

Today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand appeared on The View where she vowed to work towards marriage equality. A nice round of applause from the audience followed.

(Via – Good As You)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Watch: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jared Polis Talk ‘DADT’ Repeal on ‘Hardball’


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joined Chris Matthews on Hardball to discuss this weekend's vote in the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Sen Kirsten Gillibrand introduces the standalone bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

About an hour ago, as Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrapped up his heroic 8-hour speech about the GOP-Obama tax proposal, Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced S. 4022, “A bill to provide for the repeal of the Department of Defense policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.”  

The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), with co-sponsors Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Udall (D-CO).  Official text and other bill information is here.  

Although the bill is thought to have enough support to pass, there are two major hurdles to success.  First, it is uncertain whether enough cloture votes can be found to override a filibuster challenge.  Second, there is little time to act on this bill before the Congress adjourns for the year.  Although Sen. Reid has promised to expedite the bill by using “Rule 14” to prevent it from dying in committee, he has also vowed to adjourn the Senate for the year on Friday, December 17th.  The Senate is now in recess until Monday.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

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?


—  admin

NEW YORK: Sen. Chuck Schumer And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Win Easily

I was only going to report on the really close races and these two were miles ahead from the start, but since it’s my home state I’ll make an exception.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Audio: Gillibrand committed as ever to #DADT; Dioguardi might put hand on table after others have done heavy lifting

New York debate for U.S. Senate: Incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D and former Congressman Joe Dioguardi (R) speak out on #DADT repeal. Basically it’s a split between a “moral imperative” to lead vs. a willingness to wait while good and decent citizens are discharged because of who they are:

MORE: Sen. Gillibrand cites #DADT appeal as a top two point where she breaks from her boss. Meanwhile, the moderator gives Dioguardi the perfect opportunity to repudiate Carl Paladino’s hurtful comments, yet the Republican challenger fails to seize it:


Good As You

—  John Wright

My Lunch With Senator Gillibrand

Since her appointment by New York Governor David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's vacated seat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has utilized her new prominence to be a strong, and much needed voice for LGBT equality in the Senate.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is also no stranger to the Blend. In addition to extensive coverage, the Senator has posted here as well. And our own blogmistress was gracious enough to host a fundraiser for Gillibrand during her last trip to the Big Apple. 

As such, I thought folks would be interested in experience meeting the Senator last week. It was part of a outreach her campaign is doing in the state. My impressions after the fold.

So here's how this lowly blogger came to be lunching with a US Senator. 

I received this invitation in my inbox:

Senator Gillibrand to Host Roundtable Discussion with Local Brooklyn Reporters
Brooklyn, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will host an informal discussion with local Brooklyn reporters on THURSDAY, August 12th at 2:45 pm to discuss national issues affecting New Yorkers and her legislative agenda in the United States Senate. As Gillibrand criss-crosses the state during the August recess, she will be attending events throughout the week in New York City.

At first, I didn't really think it applied to me, I don't consider myself a journalist, lacking a paycheck and often the will to be objective. (I strive to be fair, absolutely, but don't really believe in “objective.”)

But I decided to follow up with the Senator's netroots outreach person and asked, “Can I go?” He assured me absolutely. So I went, it was just a few blocks from my home. In fact, I guess I wasn't paying close attention, because I was surprised the address was to an unassuming little haunt I, and most of the neighborhood, consider a favorite: Teresa's diner in Brooklyn Heights.

It was then I realized, “Oh my God, I'm going to be sitting a small table with a US Senator!” The gravity of it hit me like a ton of bricks. At this point, I wished I was better dressed. I didn't even like the jeans I was wearing (but was grateful I'd shaved).

Approximately ten or so local journalists came. These were not big outlets. The Brooklyn Paper, the Brooklyn Heights Courier, The Brooklyn Heights Blog. One publication is familiar to me because I flip through it while I await my Chinese carryout, where it is distributed free.

But they are important. As a long time Brooklynite, I do come to depend on these small outlets to provide me news of the Borough that either doesn't make the cut, or gets hopelessly buried in The New York Times. It's to her campaign's great credit they recognize that numbers do not equal importance, and they found 90 minutes of the Senator's time to address niche constituencies.

So, when the Senator arrived, the remaining seat happened to be next to me. (!!!) And upon introducing myself, the Senator's face flashed a moment of recognition and she said, “Oh yes, I've read your stuff.” True or not, I could have died a happy man, right then and there.

First we ordered lunch. The Senator had the cottage cheese and fruit platter, and affirmed my recommendation that the fresh bread at Teresa's was well worth breaking the carb prohibitions she observes.

She began with a personal biography. She discussed how her grandmother's activism in Albany politics influenced her. Dorothea “Polly” Noonan was a womens' rights activist, a Democratic leader and close associate of Albany mayor Erastus Corning. At a young age, Gillibrand learned the value of grassroots organizing, and also that the rough world of politics (and she used the word “bloodsport”) need not be a forbidding place for women.

She discussed her entry into politics, taking out four-term Republican incumbent John E. Sweeney in New York's conservative 20th congressional district by a margin of 53%-47%. She went on to defend the seat in 2008, winning by one of the largest vote margins in the congressional cycle: 62%-38%.

She discussed her work on her various committees, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Environment and Public Works, Foreign Relations, Environmental Protection, Special Committee on Aging.

She began by saying “the main issue is economy and jobs.” Her plan involves passing a bill to help small businesses. The initiative would funnel billion dollars into community banks. Repayment interests would be contingent on their re-lending it: 7% if they hold on to it, 1% if it is disbursed back into the community. It is being considered as an amendment to HR. 5297.

Senator Gillibrand speaks to a constituent in Queens, from Facebook.

She discussed her sponsorship of The Senior Investor Protection Act, (S. 1659) and her work educating senior New Yorkers how to avoid scams that target them. She called failure to include the Community Choice Act in health care reform a “missed opportunity,” in response to a reporter's question.

One thing Kirsten possesses that the truly effective progressive firebrands in politics have, is a firm and unapologetic belief in righteousness of her position. Her rhetorical choices aren't meek. She tells you changes need to be made, and here's which ones and why…

When discussing policy, one is struck that you're in the presence of a very hip nerd (think Rachel Maddow). There are vast resources of knowledge in her head that are very readily accessible. She casually drops facts in that assure you she was up late doing her homework. (NYC alone accounts for 50% of the dollars our country spends on public transportation. Seniors account for trillion in assets, making this population especially attractive to fraud schemes.)

But like a polished professional, she doesn't lose you in the wonk. The facts are there to illustrate the point, they are not the point. As a person, Senator Gillibrand could not come off more authentic. She's unassuming and fun, and remarkably unguarded.

Upon her appointment in January 2009 to the Senate seat, Gillibrand was a relative unknown in the nation, even the state. She first drew attention by her advocacy to repeal the military's “Don't ask, don't tell” policy. She described meeting Lt. Dan Choi, and being “overwhelmed with anger that this was our government policy.”

She also described the complacency she saw among her Senate colleagues to address the issue. She responded by coming out swinging and reached out to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to help bring about the wildly successful February Senate hearings on the policy. She expressed she was confident the pending Senate vote would be successful and DADT would soon be history.

Before the lunch, I truly believed her advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community is authentic and not merely a means to shore up progressive support. Her language is too unequivocal, she has said:

“To me, achieving full LGBT equality is the civil rights march of our generation.”

But in speaking with her in person, it's clear, she is truly animated and invested in these fights. At 43, she seems to have a hard time comprehending why these issues are not no-brainers to her older, more conservative colleagues. The time she spent in her youth in the City served her well. She shared a anecdote of her early law career working late, with only the company of other single women and gay men and how those friendships shaped her perspective.

The news that Judge Walker had declined to give Prop 8 proponents an indefinite stay of the resumption of same-sex marriage in California broke during this lunch, and I was lucky enough to be the one who conveyed it to her. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. This was a win she was happy to join us in celebrating. (Fun fact: as a private practice attorney, she made partner at the firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Yes, that Bois. I did not know that.)

We all got one question. A reporter asked her to address her Latino readerships' frustration with Democrats' sluggish advances toward immigration reform. Gillibrand assured her immigration reform was a priority and discussed different timelines and tactics for tackling it, including comprehensive and piece meal passage of existing bills, mentioning the DREAM Act by name.

I followed up by asking about LGBT inclusion in such efforts. Specifically, I was concerned the coalition being gathered to pressure Congress has outright expressed that LGBT inclusion was a “dealbreaker,” and was there a strategy around that?

I have to be honest, I was not encouraged by her answer. There did not appear to be a strategy, at least one they're ready to enunciate. And to be fair, there does not yet seem to be, at least publicly, a firm strategy for reform in general.

She answered by discussing the importance of winning the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” vote, and how recent court victories help move our issues inevitably forward. She did conclude, “We may not win this fight this time.”

Which, actually brighten my mood. I would prefer to hear hard truths from my allies, than be fed false hopes. Many of us tracking the Uniting American Families Act, S. 1328 and efforts for LGBT inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform recognize the long odds we face. The Senator is clearly a strong LGBT advocate, but she is but one woman of 535. If anyone can forgive being outvoted, it's the gay community. I appreciate being spoken to as an adult who can read the same writing on the wall. I know she's part of the solution, not the problem, she doesn't have to tell me what I want to hear to stay in my good graces.

If there was a unifying theme to the issues she brought to the table, it is her advocacy on behalf of the disadvantaged and vulnerable and her firm belief that good government can work to make people's live better. Seniors, small businesses, veterans, LGB servicemembers, 9/11 first responders. I personally could not be more proud to call her my own.

I'm glad to see her surge in polling, the latest Siena College poll which places her at 25 points ahead of her closest competitor indicates New Yorkers, as they get to know her, agree. If New Yorkers can find any solace in the tumultuous one-two debacle of Spitzer/Paterson Gubernatorial term, it is that it delivered to us this gem of a Senator.

Senate campaign site is here, you can find her on Facebook here, and follow her on Twitter here. If you're moved to donate, I'd suggest using the wglb@dailykos ActBlue page, please.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright