During a press conference today, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) responded to questions regarding the amendment repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Describing the closed-door debate over the policy as “lively,” Levin said he was “optimistic” that the DADT amendment will remain on the final bill, but admitted that the provision has “complicated my life to get the bill to the floor.”
Levin stressed that the Senate Armed Services Committee — which passed the amendment by a vote of 16 to 12– “followed the same course as the top military leaders of this country set out” but acknowledged a tough road ahead for the measure. Levin also clarified that a complete repeal would require the military to change its own regulations:
LEVIN: There are two hurdles here. One is a hurdle that exists in the law, the other is the hurdle that exists in the regulations. So all we’ve done here, even if we get the certification, that there is no negative effect on cohesion or readiness, is remove one hurdle. But there is still a regulatory prohibition that exists in the military’s own regulations. All we did is put that regulation in law back in 1993, or whenever it was. So, the fact that even if we did get the certification — which I hope we do and expect we will — and even if we then say ‘ok, you’ve met that test and now it’s in your hands.’ It still requires action by the military to act on their own regulations, their own prohibitions. So it’s two steps, it’s two hurdles.
Watch a compilation:
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the chief sponsor of repeal in the House — sounded far more optimistic about a swift repeal. During my interview with him, he said, “I take both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen at their word and that they both have articulated the need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that I believe our agreement is a smart agreement and that it truly dismantles Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Murphy also said he’s received assurances that repeal would occur “shortly after” the study was certified.
Levin said he hopes the full Senate will take up the defense authorization measure before the summer recess.
CRIST: I think the current policy has worked pretty well for America. I really do. So I don’t know why there’s any need for change at this time.
When I contacted the campaign to ask them about Crist’s evolving position, they explained that Crist supported Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) DADT compromise because it deferred the repeal decision “to the Pentagon and to the generals.” Refusing to answer whether Crist still believes that the policy “has worked pretty well for America,” Crist’s spokesperson, Michelle Todd, said that Crist would likely disagree with House Republicans who have misrepresented the amendment as an immediate repeal. Todd also said she could not answer why Crist changed his mind between Monday and Thursday.
Crist has had a confused record on LGBT issues. He has supported efforts to ban gay marriage in Florida, but has said that civil unions between gays are “fine.” In 2007, however, he asked the Republican party to stop spending money promoting “a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Florida” even after he signed a petition “to place an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage on the 2008 election ballot.” “When asked if he supported civil rights on the basis of sexual orientation, Crist said ‘no.’”
On July 28, 2006, Crist told a radio show that he “haven’t taken a position yet” on the right of gays to adopt, but only days after — in an interview by the Florida Baptist Witness — “Crist answered ‘no’ to repealing the ban on gays’ adopting.”
Last night, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House successfully attached an amendment repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to this year’s defense authorization bill, clearing major hurdles to ending the 17-year old discriminatory policy. Despite Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) promise of a “unified GOP opposition to lifting the ban,” five Republicans supported ending the ban in the House (Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ron Paul (R-TX), Charles Djou (R-HI), Joseph Cao (R-LA), Judy Biggert (R-IL)) for a final vote of 234-194, and one, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), voted for repeal in the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the amendment passed 16-12. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) was the only Democrat to oppose the measure in Committee.
During the closed Armed Services Committee vote, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) reportedly challenged his friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to support the measure. McCain complained about the political nature of the debate, to which Lieberman responded, “Come’n John, look who is playing politics.” As the vote neared, McCain seemed confident in his defeat. “I’m ready to vote and I’m ready to lose,” he was quoted as saying.
In the House, the debate was no less contentious. Republicans had spent the entire afternoon condemning gay service in the military and were challenged on the floor by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Hoyer likened the pending ban against open service to the desegregation of the armed forced in the 1940s and the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s. Hoyer read from the rhetoric of obstructions from decades past and likened their tone to today’s GOP criticisms.
“I’ll tell my friends, I have some rhetoric here that was used in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, when there were some American that you didn’t have to ask, they didn’t have to tell, because you knew they were African American.” “And I heard Strom Thurmond speak on the floor of the Senate, speaking about discriminating against people because of the color of their skin, separate but equal. I’ve heard the same rhetoric,” Hoyer said before preceding to read the quotes from that time: “The army is the wrong place for social experiments. Keep African Americans in their place.” “Hear that language? That was used back in 1948 and read the transcripts today,” Hoyer said. Then, he turned to the debate at hand, confronting the GOP with Colin Powell’s support for repeal:
HOYER: Ladies and Gentlemen, look to your hearts and your conscience. Is there one of us — is there one of us that would say General Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs undermined the morale and the effectiveness of the United States Army? Is there one of us? I’ll yield to anybody who wants to say that he undermined the morale of our services. No one? No one? This is not a social experiment any more than that was a social experiment, any more than in 1990 when we wanted to deal with those with disabilities. It was a social experiment. It was the bedrock of what America is….but I tell you, my friends, this bill is about our national security. This bill is about people who perform their service to our country. This bill is about making sure that America is safe. This bill is about making sure that we defeat terrorism and keep America safe. Let’s focus on that. Let’s not be distracted.
In his closing argument on the floor, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — who sponsored the amendment and led the fight for repeal in the House — told the story of Former Air Force Sgt. David Hall, who followed the rules of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but was discharged after someone outed him. “I assure you I am fit for military duty,” Hall told Murphy. “Please stop discharging patriotic Americans who just want to serve the country they love.”
After the vote, Obama said he was pleased by the move toward repeal. “Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief,” Obama said in a statement. “This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.”
Having passed the Senate Armed Services Committee the defense authorization bill now moves to the full Senate chamber, which will take-up the measure after the Memorial Day recess. But passage is not guaranteed. The House has defied Obama’s veto threat against funding for two Joint Strike Fighter engines and the Pentagon “is aggressively pushing for a veto” of any measure that includes the funding (which is not included in the Senate version of the bill). Rep. John Larson (D-CT), who supports repeal and opposes the funding said he expects Obama to stay true to this threat. “I fully expect the President to follow through with his threatened veto of the Defense Authorization Act if the F-35 Extra Engine Program is in the final legislation,” Larson said.
If the bill passes, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will remain in place until President Obama, the Defense Secretary, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repeal is “consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.” The public will also have 60 days to review the study before the ban is officially lifted.
This afternoon, as the House considers the Defense Authorization Bill of 2010, Republicans took to the floor to condemn a single amendment that would repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. Under the proposal, Congress would repeal the statute this year, but the current military policy would remain in place until President Obama, the Defense Secretary, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that repeal is “consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention” and Congress and the public had 60 days to review the study.
In an orchestrated manner, almost every single House Republican took to the floor to condemn the proposal, misrepresenting it as an immediate repeal that does not allow the Defense Department to complete its study. In the midst of considering other amendments, Republicans turned the discussion into an opportunity to condemn gays in the military:
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): “If someone has to be overt about their sexuality, whether it’s in a bunker where they’re confined under fire, then it’s a problem. And that’s what repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell does. It says, ‘I have to be overt, I don’t care. I want this to be a social experiment.”
REP: TODD AKIN (R-MI): “So are we then going to then protect and condone homosexuality in the military?…Is this the sort of thing that George Washington or our founders would be proud of, that we are doing today in this quick flash before Memorial Day?”
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ): “We’re going to say, ‘No. We don’t care what you say. You can die for us on the battlefield, but you have no input into this process.’ That’s a disgrace to this institution and it’s an insult to the men and women who pour out their blood on foreign battlefields for the country that we all love so much.”
In the Senate, Armed Services Republicans threatened to filibuster the defense authorization bill “if it comes to the floor with Democrat-backed language repealing DADT.” “I’ll do everything in my power,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said. “I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women of the military and to fight what is clearly a political agenda.” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) agreed, promising to support a filibuster “if the repeal language makes it into the version of the bill that goes to the floor, most likely after the Memorial Day recess.”
As Democrats tie up the votes to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Republicans and right-wing conservative organizations are growing increasing unhinged. House Republicans are “preparing to mount a vigorous defense” of the policy, Sen. John McCain is threatening a filibuster, and right-wing Christian groups are pressuring conservative lawmakers to toe the party line.
The American Family Association’s (AFA) homophobic Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, Bryan Fischer, claimed this week that not only was Adolf Hitler gay, but all his “Brownshirts” were too. “And Hitler discovered…that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after,” he said. Similarly, a group called America’s Survival sent out an email titled, “Disease-tainted Gay Blood Threatens Our Troops!,” warning that “A vote to repeal the homosexual exclusion policy would inevitably mean more disease and death for members of our Armed Forces.”
And this atmosphere of political correctness…will give us a situation where victims might be less likely to report homosexual assaults and commanders might be less likely to vigorously punish them for fear of appearing discriminatory or homophobic…If there was ambiguity as to whether the case was consensual or none consensual, as to whether it was a criminal act then they would be less likely to report. As pointed out, in a number of these cases, the victims were sleeping or intoxicated. Under those circumstances, their memory bank may be clouded and…so the evidence may not be strong enough to stand up in a court martial.
On a conference call with reporters, the organization tried to dismiss inquiries about why these problems don’t plague foreign militaries that allow openly gay members to serve and downplayed the significance of the 14,000 troops discharged under DADT:
Listen to highlights:
If these arguments sound familiar, it’s because they are. As Nathaniel Frank writes in the seminal study of the 1993 DADT debate — Unfriendly Fire — conservative groups regularly argued that “forcing the acceptance of gays in the military meant victimizing the nation’s upright and moral sons and daughters,” spread disease among the forces and even force “military base magazine suppliers” to “carry homosexual pornography.” One study even closely mirrored FRC’s release. It concluded “that the sex crime rate of gay service members was higher than the army’s overall crime rate.” “The study was so biased — it never even bothered to look at rates of heterosexual misconduct, giving it no basis to compare sex crimes of gays and straights — that the army launched an investigation into the release of the data,” Frank writes.
Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates clarifying the purpose of the year-long Defense Department review of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “Is the purpose of this comprehensive review to determine ‘whether’ to repeal the statute or is it to assess the issue related to ‘how’ to implement a repeal of the statute?” Levin asked. Gates responded that there was broad agreement that DADT should be repealed — “The question before us,” Gates said, referring to his February 2nd testimony, “is not whether the military prepares to make this change but how we … best prepare for it.” In his response to Levin, Gates said that in accordance with his testimony, the working group is charged with assessing the impact of ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and “developing a plan to implement such a repeal in the most informed and effective manner possible.” “The outcome of this review is also intended to fully inform both Presidential and Congressional decision making to ensure a change in this law properly and fully addresses the various and complex considerations involved,” he wrote.
Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen reiterated his support for ending the policy through the delayed-implementation compromise developed by repeal advocates, Congress, and the White House, but said that repealing DADT was still an open question:
After reviewing results of the study, Mullen, the service chiefs and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide their recommendations to President Barack Obama. “So having that information will inform me and our leaders about what our recommendations will be,” he said.
Mullen called the “certification trigger” provided in the proposed amendment critical.
“The language in there right now preserves my prerogative – and I believe, my responsibility – to give the best military advice,” he said. “That trigger is to certify whether we should move ahead with that change, even if the law were to repeal it,” he told a reporter following the session.
Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) amendment, however, suggests that both the study group and the “trigger” already assume that the policy will be repealed. For instance, the amendment states that the study group will “determine any impacts to military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion… that may result from the repeal of the law and recommend any actions that should be taken in light of such impacts.” The group is tasked with determining “leadership, guidance, and training…appropriate changes to existing policies and regulations….appropriate changes (if any) to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will then review these recommendations (which seek to ensure that a repeal does not undermine military effectiveness) and certify that “the implementation of necessary policies and regulations” pursuant to the repeal are “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”
Mullen himself has publicly and privately assured lawmakers that he believes the policy should be repealed. As Murphy told me yesterday, “I take both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen at their word and that they both have articulated the need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I’m fully confident in the public testimony of both Secretary of Defense Gates of Chairman Mike Mullen and our current Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, that they have been very clear that they want to have a nondiscriminatory policy in place,” Murphy told me.
The novel idea that foreign law has a place in the interpretation of American law creates numerous dangers. A number of academics, and even Federal judges, I would say, are seduced by this idea.
Judge Sotomayor clearly shares in that idea. I am somewhat surprised, but it is true, as I will discuss. Her vision seems to be that we should change our laws, or listen to other laws and judges, and sort of merge them with this foreign law.
Sotomayor has been a justice for almost a full Supreme Court term now, and she has somehow resisted the urge to transform America into France. Nevertheless, the right-wing is already reviving Sessions’ silly conspiracy theory to attack the President’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, for example, the conservative Washington Times, claimed that a curriculum change Kagan presided over while Dean of Harvard Law School somehow reflects contempt for American law. According to their editorial, “under Ms. Kagan’s leadership . . . Harvard dropped constitutional law as a required course for graduation, while adding a requirement for a course in ‘International/Comparative Law.’” Such a “de-emphasis on the Constitution itself” the editorial claims, predicts that a Justice Kagan would join with Justice Sotomayor to make all of Sessions’ foreign law nightmares come truly.
There’s only one problem: the Washington Times got its facts wrong. As Media Matterspoints out, Kagan did not “replace con-law with international law.” Constitutional Law has never been a graduation requirement for Harvard law students in the first place.
Under Kagan’s leadership, Harvard law did add two new courses to its first year curriculum, but these changes were unanimously approved by the Harvard faculty, including conservatives such as former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried. Moreover, the new course in international and comparative law was not added as part of some grand conspiracy, but rather in recognition of the fact that many Harvard graduates went on to represent clients with legal issues that cross international borders. To quote Harvard, a new curriculum was needed to “better prepare our students to enter the current market.”
Right-wing columnist Stuart Taylor also jumps into the conspiracy-mongering about Kagan and foreign law. Taylor’s evidence that Kagan is somehow outside of the mainstream is a speech she once gave praising former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, the legendary jurist who first held that Israeli courts may strike down an act of Israel’s Knesset when it conflicts with the human rights protected by Israel’s “Basic Laws.” In Taylor’s words, Justice Barak is known for “creativity in advancing liberal causes by overturning elected officials’ policies makes Marshall look almost like a champion of judicial restraint,” and Kagan’s praise of Barak somehow warns that she will try to make America more like Barak’s Israel.
Taylor’s attack, however, might come as a surprise to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia recently spoke at an awards ceremony honoring Barak, where he touted his “profound respect for the man, one that trumped their fundamental philosophical, legal and constitutional disagreements.” Yet for all his praise of Israel’s most famous progressive jurist, Justice Scalia is hardly known for his “creativity in advancing liberal causes.”
The bottom line is this: conservatives have no case against Elena Kagan, so they’ve resorted to recycling old attacks that didn’t even work the last time around. Sadly, they can’t even get their facts straight while dig through long-forgotten garbage.
Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who at one point said that he would re-evaluate his support for the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy if military leaders like Colin Powell called for its repeal — told Roll Call that he would “without a doubt” support a filibuster of the entire defense authorization bill if Democrats successfully attached an amendment repealing the ban on open gay and lesbian military service. “I’ll do everything in my power,” McCain said. “I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women of the military and to fight what is clearly a political agenda.”
Well now, sources close to the Senate Armed Services Committee are telling me that McCain has asked Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) that the vote on DADT repeal be in “open session.” Levin agreed and has said that the vote will occur sometime after lunch.
While some may interpret this as a ‘nod to transparency’, I expect McCain will use the time to grand stand on the issue and burnish his conservative credentials in light of his tough re-election race against J.D. Hayworth. Expect him to misrepresent the repeal compromise — which actually allows the Defense Department to complete its study before any repeal occurs and now has a 60-day cushion of review — and tout the letters of dissent he received yesterday from several service chiefs.
With the support of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), repeal advocates believe they have enough votes (16) to attach repeal to the defense authorization bill.
Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) office has just sent me an email saying that the senator, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will support the compromise to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell after successfully inserting language into the amendment that would “give Congress an additional 60 days to thoroughly review the implementation policy once certified”:
“I did not want to blindly assent to repealing this law without giving the Congress an opportunity to re-examine the concerns of our Armed Forces and the manner in which they are being addressed.”
“Therefore, I worked with the Senate and House Leadership, Senators Lieberman and Levin, Congressman Murphy, the Administration and the Department of Defense to include a provision in the proposed compromise amendment that would delay the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell’ policy for 60 days after receipt of the findings of the Pentagon Review and the determination of the proposed policy and regulation changes.”
“This period of time will allow the Congress, along with the American people, to thoroughly review the proposed policy recommendations to ensure that these changes are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention for our Armed Forces.” “With these changes, I will support the amendment expected to be offered by Senator Lieberman to the Department of Defense Authorization bill.”
The new language will presumably send the issue back to Congress even after the results of the Defense Department review are certified by President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. The full compromise now looks something like this: 1) Congress passes repeal as an attachment to the defense authorization bill, 2) once the study is completed on December 1, officials will certify that it does not undermine military effectiveness 3) once it’s certified, Congress has 60 days to “review” it before DADT is repealed. Byrd provides the 16th vote for repeal on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but under this scenario the ban won’t be eliminated until sometime in early 2011.
As advocates of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) scramble to secure enough votes to pass a compromise that would delay implementation of a repeal until President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen certify the results of the Defense Department’s study, religious groups and members of foreign militaries are throwing their support behind eliminating the policy.
Yesterday, a coalition of 10 major Jewish organizations, joined a growing number of religious organizations urging Congress to repeal DADT. “We believe this policy is unjust and become an anomaly among western nations,” the letter said. “Advanced militaries throughout the world, including many of our NATO allies and Israel, allow gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel to serve openly. It is time for the United States to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and we encourage you and colleagues to act swiftly.”
Indeed, writing in today’s Politico, members of the Dutch, Swedish and British militaries explain how their nations successfully transitioned to an open policy and how DADT undermines military coalitions:
For example, units of our own or other armed forces have refused to deploy in some joint operations with U.S. forces because gay service members would not work with the Americans — for fear of hostile reactions….We are aware of colleagues in our own militaries who don’t like it that gays and lesbians serve openly. However, despite considerable fears before we enacted these policies, such attitudes are rare. In no cases, in fact, have negative private opinions about gay people undermined our ability to work with one another. Our service members are professionals who care, first and foremost, about the ability to do the job. Moral opposition to homosexuality, while real, is just not allowed to undercut our militaries’ missions. Nor do we think it will have any impact on yours after you repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” [...]
In fact, our polls, rhetoric and even threats of mass resignations were quite similar to the continuing resistance in America. Yet none of the doomsday scenarios came true….We are also puzzled about repeated claims we heard in Washington about the need for more research on “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” There is more than enough on-the-ground experience, as well as serious social science research, showing what will happen when the U.S. military allow gays and lesbians to utter the words, “I am gay” without getting fired.
We are confident that, despite the unique nature of each culture and military, you will have a similar experience to ours — which is that ending discrimination against gay troops was a giant nothing.
Larry Korb has noted that the experiences of these nations suggest that repeal can and should occur swiftly. Three of the United States’ closest allies—Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom—”have successfully removed all restrictions on gays and lesbians in their armed forces since the early 1990s.” All three countries made quick, successful transitions to policies of open service without undermining military readiness or effectiveness. In fact, 30 months “after the policy change, the United Kingdom conducted a tri-service review of its transition to open service. The response was unquestionably positive. The Royal Air Force reported that “the overwhelming view of RAF [Commanding Officers] is that the change in policy was overdue…All COs agreed that there had been no tangible impact on operational effectiveness, team cohesion, or Service life generally.”
Responding to criticism that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal compromise doesn’t end the policy fast enough or provide enough safeguards to ensure eventual repeal, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the lead sponsor of repeal in the House — said, in an exclusive interview with the Wonk Room, that he expected “Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen” to certify the Defense Authority “shortly after” it is completed.
Murphy admitted that the compromise did not replace DADT with a new nondiscrimination policy — as his original repeal legislation would have done — but expressed confidence that Gates would institute one anyway. “The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman could put clearly a policy in place that would not discriminate against men and women because of their sexual orientation. And I have full confidence that they will,” he said:
ON SWIFT REPEAL:
I take both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen at their word and that they both have articulated the need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that I believe our agreement is a smart agreement and that it truly dismantles Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But it pays respect and honors the Pentagon Study Group that they’re formulating.
Q: Can you give any kind of estimate of how long you think it would take after the study is out for it to be certified?
I would think it would be shortly after.
ON INSTITUTING A NONDISCRIMINATION POLICY:
I’m fully confident in the public testimony of both Secretary of Defense Gates of Chairman Mike Mullen and our current Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, that they have been very clear that they want to have a nondiscriminatory policy in place. Having a nondiscriminatory policy in place was impossible because U.S. law for 17 years was that we’ll continue discrimination that we currently do as under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman could put clearly a policy in place that would not discriminate against men and women because of their sexual orientation. And I have full confidence that they will.”
Listen to highlights:
Murphy also responded to Chief of Naval Operations’ G. Roughead’s recent claim that adopting legislative changes ahead of the study “may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.” “I think that to say that the American troop isn’t as professional as a 26 other countries that allow their troops to serve openly, is, frankly, not appropriate.”
Asked if he thought the administration did all it could to bring about repeal, Murphy joked, ” I think Patrick Murphy could have done more in retrospect. Everyone can work harder and work smarter.”
Several Service chiefs who have opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the past have written letters to Congress expressing their opposition to the new compromise. In these testimonials, obtained by the Wonk Room, the officials stressed their strong support for completing the Defense Department review and suggested that any change in policy would confuse soldiers:
– G. ROUGHEAD, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: “My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.”
– JAMES T. CONWAY, COMMANDANT OF MARINE CORPS: “I encourage Congress to let the process the Secretary of Defense created to run its course. Collectively, we must use logical and pragmatic decisions about the long-term policies of our Armed Forces.”
– NORTON SCHWARTZ, CHIEF OF STAFF (USAF): “I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, and the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the DA/DT law…To do otherwise, in my view, would be presumptive and would reflect an intent to act before all relevant factors are assessed digested and understood.”
– GEORGE CASEY, CHIEF OF STAFF (ARMY): “I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.”
Of course, the delayed-implementation compromise addresses all of these concerns by ensuring that nothing actually happens until the Defense Department’s study is completed. The amendment specifically states that “Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect [the DADT seciont] until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met” — until the review is complete (i.e. the voices of the military are considered) and the President and military officials certify that repeal is “consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.” In 1993, Congress passed DADT before the military had issued final rules on how to implement the policy, and there is no reason it shouldn’t do the same now — particularly when it’s bending over backwards to accommodate the Defense Department.
The more offensive notion — besides Roughead’s belief that our soldiers are so easily confused — is the assumption that openly gay members will undermine the military or that, once the views of American soldiers are considered, policymakers will discover that they’re homophobic.
Former Joints Chief Chairman General John Shalikashvili has sent this letter to Senators Levin and Lieberman responding to these claims:
The legislative compromise fully and affirmatively respects the Working Group process….Furthermore, the proposed implementation and certification requirements contained in the legislative compromise ensure that the views of Service members and their families will be respected and given full weight in determining how best to implement this shift in policy.
Moments ago, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) — who had previously told reporters that he would not support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) before the military completed its year-long review of the policy — announced that he would vote for a compromise to delay implementation until after officials certified the findings of the review. Nelson’s support brings the total number of votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee to 15, enough to attach the delayed-implementation amendment (offered by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)) to the defense authorization measure on Thursday. When the amendment passes in committee, it would require 60 votes to strip repeal from the bill during the floor debate. The Defense Authorization bill is expected to pass both Houses and be signed by the President by late summer or early fall.
I will support the Lieberman compromise because it removes politics from the process. It bases implementation of the repeal on the Pentagon’s review and a determination by our military leaders that repeal is consistent with military readiness and effectiveness, and that the Pentagon has prepared the necessary regulations to make the changes.
“I spoke to Secretary Gates and he advised that while he preferred waiting until the study is completed, he can live with this compromise.
“The Lieberman compromise shows that Congress values the Pentagon’s review that will include the advice and viewpoints from our men in women in uniform, from outside experts and from the American people about how to implement the repeal. It rests ultimate authority to make this change with our military leaders. I believe this is the right thing to do.”
Until today, it was unclear if the new compromise would win over enough votes, but Nelson’s statement suggests that the compromise and Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ support, was critical to Nelson’s decision. As he told Metro Weekly last week, “I want to follow with the advice and the suggestions of Secretary of Defense Gates to have the study that is underway right now before we make that final decision — because it’s not a question of ‘whether,’ it’s a question of ‘how,” Nelson said. At that time, Nelson was also unsure if he could support the delayed-implementation approach. ““I don’t know,” Nelson said. “I haven’t seen that legislation. I know there’s probably some support for that, but I think it’s been made pretty clear by Secretary Gates that we shouldn’t take any action until the study is completed, and that’s my position. That’s where I’m going to stay.’”
As a Republican, governor and senatorial candidate Charlie Crist supported the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, and in February his campaign spokesperson said the governor believed DADT should be kept in place. “We are a nation at war. The governor believes the current policy has worked, and there is no need to make changes,” Crist campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg told the Buzz. But now that Crist is an independent, his staff is not so sure:
When contacted Tuesday, Crist staffers said they did not know where he stood on the issue. The staffers did not say that the governor had changed his position.
Crist has has maintained a traditionally conservative record on so-called gay issues. He has supported efforts to ban gay marriage in Florida, but has said that civil unions between gays are “fine.” In 2007, however, he asked the Republican party to stop spending money promoting “a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Florida.”
Crist has also endorsed Florida’s ban on adoption by gay parents, telling reporters, “My position is the traditional family is the best to adopt.” Of course, now that he’s an independent, those positions may too become uncertain.
One of the main objectives of the Pentagon group studying the implications of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy is to survey troops and their families and report on how servicemembers would respond to serving alongside openly gay troops and how gay and lesbian members feel about lifting the ban. Since the study began, the Pentagon has expressed concern over how to go about surveying gay troops without unintentionally outing them or allowing some members to use the benefit of anonymity to shower the comments with homophobic remarks. The Defense Department has hired a contractor, Westat to confidentially gather the views of troops and their families. “The company will use that data to assess the possible impact of a change in policy on military effectiveness and identify possible changes needed in military recruiting, housing, spousal benefits, and other areas.”
While the military attempts to elicit the opinions of gay soldiers, my colleagues at the Center for American Progress have produced a video of former gay members who chose not to re-enlist in the service because of the DADT policy:
- VETERAN: “At the end of five and a half years of service I decided to get out because I couldn’t lie about who I was anymore.”
- VETERAN: “I choose not to re-enlist. When I came back from Iraq and I looked out of the aircraft and there were always these flags and welcome home signs and I realized my partner couldn’t be there on the tarmac, that was like a slap in the face.”
- VETERAN: “The law basically allows for a lot of disruption in the unit. This law is completely illogical. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s a failed, failed law.”
Despite initially saying that he would re-consider the military’s Don’t Ask, Dont’ Tell (DADT) policy if military leaders suggested that it was ineffective, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who is in a tight primary with conservative challenger JD Hayworth — reacted negatively to last night’s compromise to repeal DADT. McCain told a local radio station that “he welcomed a review of the military’s prohibition on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers,” but said that Democrats are “going to try to jam that through without even trying to figure out what the impact on battle effectiveness would be.”
BROWN: It would be premature to act on a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law at this time. The Pentagon is still in the midst of its study of the matter, and its report is due in December…. I believe we have a responsibility to the men and women of our armed forces to be thorough in our consideration of this issue and take their opinions seriously. I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military.
But the Republican opposition is peculiar, since the compromise struck between the White House, Congress, and repeal advocates already meets their demands. Under the agreement, lawmakers will attach repeal legislation to this year’s defense authorization measure, but delay implementation until the Pentagon completes its review and President Obama and military officials certify that the repeal is “consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.” As the text of the amendment states, “Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect [the DADT seciont] until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met. If these requirements and certifications are not met, section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — who shares the GOP’s concerns and has largely insisted that the Pentagon’s review must precede Congressional action — issued a statement in support of the compromise. “Secretary Gates continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law,” Gates’ spokesman Geoff Morrell emailed journalists this morning. “With Congress having indicated that is not possible, the Secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment,” he said.
On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will vote on an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, sponsored by Senator Lieberman (I-CT) and supported by Chairman Levin (D-MI) to repeal DADT and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the lead sponsor of repeal in the House — will offer an identical amendment to the House’s Defense Authorization bill on the floor. And while Murphy has said that “We have the votes to get this done,” Levin has remained cautiously optimistic about the amendment’s prospects in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Fifteen votes are needed to attach the amendment and advocates are still lobbying Sens. Webb, Byrd, and Bill Nelson. A spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has told Fox News that “she would probably support the efforts” “to push for the measure.”
If the amendment passes in committee, it would require 60 votes to strip repeal from the bill during floor debate.The Defense Authorization bill is expected to pass both Houses and be signed by the President by late summer or early fall.
The Washington Blade is reporting that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) will support the DADT compromise. A recent survey of Nelson’s constituents found that “69% of Florida voters support allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, while just 21% oppose allowing gays to serve.”
Moments ago, following a pair of meetings with advocates, the White House issued a statement in support of attaching an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy this year but delay implementation until President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen certify the Pentagon’s review of the policy.
The statement came just hours after Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the chief sponsor of repeal legislation in the House — wrote a letter to the administration asking its “input” on an amendment that “put a process in place to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, once the working group has completed its review.” Under the proposal, Congress would repeal the statute this year, but the current military policy would remain in place until officials certified the results of the study. Servicemembers could presumably be discharged under the more lenient guidelines enforcing the ban released by Gates in March. [Read the full letter HERE].
In its response, the administration finally backed what repeal advocates have previously described as the delay-implementation strategy [Read the full letter HERE]:
While ideally the Department of Defense Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of Repeal of 10 U.S.C. § 654 would be completed before the Congress takes any legislative action…the Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The proposed amendment will allow for completion of the Comprehensive Review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. The amendment will also guarantee that the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations needed to successfully implement the repeal…the Administration therefore supports the proposed amendment.
While there appear to be enough votes to pass repeal in the House, advocates are most concerned about attracting the 15 votes needed to attach the amendment to the defense authorization bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is scheduled to begin marking up the measure tomorrow. Votes on both measures have been tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the third-ranking House Republican, “promised unified GOP opposition to lifting the ban.” “The American people don’t want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda. And House Republicans will stand on that principle,” he said.
(c) NO IMMEDIATE EFFECT ON CURRENT POLICY.—
Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met. If these requirements and certifications are not met, section 654
6 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect.
The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld is reporting that the White House, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and gay activists have reached an agreement to support legislation that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) this year, but delay implementation until President Obama, Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen certify the results of a year-long Pentagon review scheduled to be released in December:
According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would repeal the current statute this year, but implementation of repeal would not take place until after completion of the Pentagon’s working group study in December. Further, repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention and other key factors that affect the military.
The language would not include a nondiscrimination policy but rather will return authority for open service by gays and lesbians back to the Pentagon.
Activists hope that Gates’ support for the new strategy — he has previously warned Congress against repealing the ban before the military completed its review — could win over enough moderate Democrats and Republicans (Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is said to be “neutral” on the issue but “moving in the right direction“) on the Senate Armed Services Committee to attach the provision to the defense authorization bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee. That vote, along with a vote on repeal in the House, are tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
Once Obama, Gates, and Mullen certify the results of the Pentagon study late this year or early next year, the legislation will trigger repeal and institute a new non-discrimination policy. Ironically, when the United States adopted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in October of 1993, lawmakers relied on a similar strategy, passing the policy in Congress before the Pentagon issued rules on how to implement it.
Asked about the negotiations during today’s press briefing, Robert Gibbs said, “Obviously it’s likely that Congress is going to act this week. If they decide to do that, we’ll certainly examine what those efforts are.” Gibbs also suggested that the White House had called the meeting.
CNN’s Dana Bash just reported that Robert Gates could issue his support for the delay-implementation strategy later today.
On Friday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) discussed the effectiveness of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, regurgitating the familiar unsubstantiated talking points about how a repeal could undermine troop morale and military effectiveness. McCain dismissed the frequent discharges of essential military personnel and said that Congress was only considering repealing the policy “because of no other reason than President Obama’s campaign promise.” “The military is at its highest level of effectiveness, morale, equipment, training, professionalism, and why we would want to disrupt that when we’re in the middle of two wars is something that I find very, very wrong,” McCain said.
TONY PERKINS: Absolutely, without question – I know a lot of people point to militaries that have allowed homosexuality within the ranks – there’s twenty-five of almost two hundred nations but the top militaries in the world do not allow homosexuality to be openly engaged in, in the military – I mean, if you want a military that just does parades and stuff like that then I guess that’s okay.
In reality, three of the United States’ closest allies—Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom—”have successfully removed all restrictions on gays and lesbians in their armed forces since the early 1990s.” “All three countries made quick, successful transitions to policies of open service” without additional parades.
McCain responded to Perkins by stressing the inclusiveness of DADT. “We don’t, we do not tell someone who is homosexual that they can’t join the military – we don’t tell them that…So it’s not discriminatory and no one forces anyone to join the military and if they wanna have a sexual orientation we don’t keep them from having that orientation,” he said. The Senator also suggested that Congressional proponents of repeal have not served in the military, despite the fact that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) — the lead sponsor of repeal in the House — is an Iraqi war veteran.
In threerecordedinterviews, anti-government extremist Rand Paul (R-KY) stated his opposition to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters. Although he has since attempted to distance himself from his consistently-expressed and well-documented views, it is clear from the fact that Paul repeated certain ideas over and over again before they became a political liability that he has several well developed ideas about how government can behave.
First, Paul believes that the federal government has minimal power to regulate how private property owners use their property, or how private business owners manage their businesses or employees. In Paul’s interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, he explains that he opposes the ban on whites-only lunch counters because he “believes in private ownership.” During his lengthy interview with Rachel Maddow, Paul explained that he supports the parts of the Civil Right Act of 1964 that limit government discrimination, but that he rejects the “one title” of the Act that limits private activities (for the record, there are at least two titles of the original Civil Rights Act that limit private actors. Title II prohibits discrimination by restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations; Title VII forbids employment discrimination). Similarly, in his interview with NPR, Paul explains that his shield surrounding private businesses extends well beyond the civil rights context. When asked how he feels about “the degree of oversight of the mining and oil-drilling industries,” Paul responded “I think that most manufacturing and mining should be under the purview of state authorities.”
Second, Paul would drastically reduce–if not eliminate altogether–federal agencies’ power to regulate business. In a January interview with Fox Business, Paul called for drastic regulatory rollbacks, stating that we should “get rid of regulation. Get the EPA out of our coal business down here. Get OSHA out of our small businesses.”
Third, although Paul leaves no doubt about his opposition to virtually all government regulation of private business, he does name one exception to this rule in his Rachel Maddow interview. When asked about his views on supporters of whites-only lunch counters who resorted to violence against civil rights activists, Paul replied that people who engage in “violence” should go to jail. There are any number of federal laws restricting mining companies, the oil industry and other private businesses which do not actually prohibit acts of violence, however, and Rand Paul has not clarified how he views these laws.
Although Paul would not permit employers to commit acts of violence against their employees, he has not explained whether he would permit the federal government to impose any other limits on employers. In the early 20th century, for example, the Supreme Court declared a law restricting child labor unconstitutional. Since requiring seven year-olds to work in a sweatshop is not an act of literal violence against them, would Paul agree with this outdated decision? Similarly, what of the federal minimum wage, or the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prevents employers from forcing their workers to work in dangerous environments? Paul should explain whether his belief in “private ownership” precludes such laws.
Few members of Congress are environmental scientists, economists, or medical researchers. Yet many federal regulations would be completely counterproductive unless they were drafted by experts. Moreover, in an age of persistent filibusters, Congress cannot monitor existing regulations and adapt them to changing circumstances. For these reasons, Congress often delegates regulatory authority to agencies whose officials have both expertise and the ability to act. Such delegations are, in the Supreme Court’s words, an important way to ensure that the law responds to “changing circumstances and scientific developments,” and does not become “obsolete.”
In his Good Morning America interview yesterday morning, Paul accused EPA of “run[ning] amok” by preparing to regulate greenhouse gasses, even though Congress clearly delegated this power to EPA when it enacted the Clean Air Act. This, and his previous attacks on agencies such as OSHA, calls into question if and when he believes that agencies are allowed to do their jobs.
So, while Rand Paul has been quite clear that his views are outside the mainstream, he has not yet clarified how far down the rabbit hole he would take America. Paul should flesh out what, if any, federal laws he believes should continue to exist.