BREAKING: A new plan for DADT repeal

Details are emerging today about a new plan to pass a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the lame duck session of Congress.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., introduced DADT repeal legislation in the House this morning that could see a vote as early as Wednesday. The plan reportedly involves attaching DADT repeal as an amendment to a bill that has already passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House amendment to a Senate bill will become “an amendment between the Houses” and holds “priviledged status,” allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to call it up at any time to the floor.

“We applaud House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Reps. [Steny] Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate. This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate. While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. Repeal supporters need to contact their House member to vote for repeal tomorrow. We also need to keep the pressure on the Senate and not relent. Time remains the enemy and Senators need to complete the bill before leaving for holiday vacation. Get on the phone and help hold the frontlines.”

Below is the list of key senators SLDN is targeting. To contact them, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA);
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);
–Mark Kirk (R-IL);
–And the sole unpersuaded Democrat: Joe Manchin (D-WV)


—  John Wright

BREAKING: Senate may vote on DADT today

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning that he’s likely to bring the Defense Authorization bill containing a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” back to the Senate floor sometime later today, according to the above video posted by Wonk Room. It remains unclear, however, whether there are enough votes to break a Republican-led filibuster. And even if the 60 votes are there to proceed to debate on the bill, that doesn’t guarantee its passage. Roll Call reports:

But even if he does have the votes, Reid could be forced to drop the issue altogether once his Caucus comes to terms with the tax cut deal. With less than two weeks until the Senate is expected to adjourn, Republican opponents could drag out the DADT debate for days, eating up time needed to pass the tax cuts and continuing resolution before Christmas.

From Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“We expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try again today to take up the defense bill that includes repeal. Reid is actively reaching out to his Republican colleagues to reach an agreement on how to proceed. We also know from Hill sources the President is actively working today’s vote with key Republican senators. Today the Senate has an opportunity to make the nation’s defense funding and our service members a higher priority than tax cuts for millionaires.”

UPDATE: Equality Texas has sent out an Action Alert asking people to call Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and urge her to vote for DADT repeal. The number is 202-224-5922.

—  John Wright

After Senate hearing, DADT repeal still up in air

Service chiefs all say they can implement end to ban on gays

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The second and final day of the Senate hearing on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” has adjourned, and the battle lines are still very much where they were at the beginning, with one exception.

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown said he’ll vote for repeal, once it reaches the floor. But Brown didn’t say whether he’d be willing to rebuff Republican Party leaders to help bring the measure to the floor.

And there’s the rub. Unless 60 votes can be mustered to call the Defense Authorization bill to the Senate floor, Brown’s statement of support for repeal is of minimal consequence.

Thursday and Friday’s hearing made clear that the military leadership concedes — if not agrees — that the current ban on gays in the military should be repealed. The service chiefs of all four branches of the armed forces, plus the Coast Guard, believe repeal can be implemented without sacrificing readiness and unit cohesion. They believe the Pentagon report released Nov. 30 provides a solid plan for implementation.

But not everyone agrees on timing, and discussion during the hearings went a long way to muddle exactly which timing everyone doesn’t agree on: Timing for implementation, timing for full implementation, and timing for a Congressional vote on repeal.

This much is clear concerning implementation: Army General George Casey said “not now,” Air Force General Norton Schwartz said “not until 2012,” and Marine General James Amos said it should begin “when our singular focus is no longer on combat operations or preparing units for combat.”

“At that point,” said Amos, “then I’d be comfortable with implementing repeal.”

Other military leaders are comfortable beginning the process now. That includes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chief Vice Chairman General James Cartwright, Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, and Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp. It includes at least 56 senators, 234 members of the House, and 50 to 70 percent of Americans (depending on which recent poll you look at). And, according to the Pentagon study, at least 70 percent of servicemembers say repeal would have a “positive, mixed, or no effect” on task cohesion.

The sticking point for senators is the timing of the Senate’s vote on whether to repeal. Republicans, led by Arizona Sen. John McCain, are steadfastly against allowing a vote and have vowed to prevent the underlying Defense Authorization bill to the floor. They say it’s because the nation has more urgent matters — taxes, job creation — with which the Senae should concern itself with in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Others say it’s because they want to stall issues they oppose – such as DADT repeal — from reaching the floor until next year, when they take control of the House and have a stronger posture in the Senate.

Most military leaders expressed concern during the hearings that Congress should take a vote now and they expressed enormous and unanimous confidence that Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen would not sign the necessary papers for repeal implementation to begin until they were certain the service chiefs agreed the military’s readiness would not suffer. Their urgency was driven by concern that lawsuits are making their way through the federal court system now that have the potential to force the military to accept openly gay people immediately. Such a sudden demand, they said, would be seriously detrimental to military readiness.

The focus now shifts back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and whether they will be able to come to an agreement that will allow the defense authorization bill to the floor. Prior to Dec. 1, such an agreement seemed to pivot on whether Reid would allow Republicans to proffer numerous amendments to the bill, including one to strip DADT repeal from the measure. But on Dec.. 1, McConnell and all 41 other Republicans in the Senate signed onto a letter to Reid, saying they would not vote to proceed on consideration of “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase. …”

Rep. Barney Frank says the annual defense authorization bill is not one of those bills that fund the government and that the letter is aimed at killing DADT repeal.

Other Democrats and the White House have tried to downplay the significance of the letter, saying it was nothing new and they weren’t going to get hung up on it.

But supporters of repeal have taken the letter seriously.

“If the 42 GOP senators — including several who support repeal of ‘don’t ask’ — stand with their party on process and procedure, their vote will be an endorsement of the discrimination that has cost 14,000 men and women their jobs and put our country’s national security at risk,” said Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“A clear majority of the service chiefs support repeal this year,” said Sarvis. “Now, it’s up to the Senate. The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate early next week under a reasonable approach that insures senators on both sides of the aisle a fair shot at amendments and debate. No debate on the merits of the bill will happen unless a handful of Republicans break off and support funding our troops.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

Reid pledges lame duck vote on DADT repeal

President urges Levin to bring DADT repeal back, but Levin wants to see results of Pentagon study first

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.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

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

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

Sen. Cornyn: How could I be pandering to the gays when I’m not even up for re-election?

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says there’s no way he could be pandering for votes and money by attending a dinner for a gay group six weeks before the mid-term elections — because he’s not even on the ballot this year.

Cornyn, who’s never before spoken to the gay press, made the statement in a direct message to Dallas Voice on Twitter on Aug. 1, two days after he was accused of pandering in a post on this blog. We didn’t notice the Twitter message in our Inbox until this week.

Cornyn has consistently voted against gay rights in the Senate, receiving a zero from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard, and he’s advocated for a federal ban on gay marriage as recently as this year. Now, with the election looming, he’s agreed to speak at the National Dinner of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group.

As chair of the Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is over Republican re-election efforts this year. We suggested that he’s trying to scrounge up money and votes for Republicans from gays around the country by appearing at Log Cabin. But Cornyn seemed to have forgotten about his role as committee chair when he sent the Twitter message. He suggested that he couldn’t be pandering because he’s not up for re-election until 2014. Again, the Instant Tea post to which Cornyn was responding is here, and here’s a screen grab of his Twitter message, in which he appears to specifically address our criticism related to the timing of the dinner, which will be held Sept. 22:

We tried to send Cornyn a direct-message response, but we were unable to do so because he isn’t a follower of Dallas Voice on Twitter. So we sent him a public response requesting an interview. He has not responded.

John, if you’re reading this, we’d love to talk to you. Instant Tea is officially nonpartisan. You may get a chance to prove you’re not pandering by voting for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which could come to the Senate floor around the same time as the Log Cabin dinner.

Until then, we’re inclined to agree with the Texas Observer, which has a post up today mentioning Cornyn’s appearance at the Log Cabin dinner. Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who’s over the House campaign committee, is also slated to appear. From the Observer:

So why would these two leading gay-rights opponents — Republicans from a state where gay people can’t even get divorced, and the governor can’t stop bashing them — attend such a function? Because their job is to raise campaign cash. While marriage might be reserved for certain people, and while gays might make a handy punching-bag when you want to throw some red meat at the hardcore right-wing folk out there, money is money. Priorities are priorities.

—  John Wright

Cornyn to seek ‘common ground’ with Log Cabin — 6 weeks before the Nov. mid-term elections

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who famously compared gays to “box turtles” in the draft of a 2004 speech, now says he wants to find common ground with LGBT Republicans.

Cornyn, who happens to be chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, reportedly plans to visit a Log Cabin Republicans reception before the group’s national dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, about six weeks before the critical mid-term elections. From the Standard-Times of San Angelo:

“Some things we won’t agree on,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “But I think it’s always better to talk and then try find those things we can agree on rather than just assume there’s no common ground whatsoever.”

Cornyn said same-sex marriage is “absolutely” one of those things he and LCR members don’t agree on, but he’s happy to talk to them.

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation,” Cornyn said.

We’re sure some will try to argue this is a sign of progress, but we mustn’t forget Cornyn’s strong support for a federal marriage amendment, his vote against hate crimes last year, his stated opposition to DADT repeal, and his all-but-certain vote against ENDA if it ever reaches the Senate floor. Cornyn has received a zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office.

So, until Cornyn puts his votes where his mouth is — and he very well might get a chance when DADT repeal comes to the Senate floor the same month he’s slated to visit Log Cabin — we see this visit as nothing more than pandering for votes and money from gay Republicans across the country. When the GOP platform in your home state calls for imprisoning gays, where can the common ground possibly be?

—  John Wright