As the Senate prepares to vote for cloture on the Defense Authorization Bill that includes a gradual repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Democrats are conceding that they may not have 60 votes to halt a GOP filibuster and worry that moderate Republicans like Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins may be faltering in their initial support for the measure. The Serivcemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has recruited Lady Gaga to headline a pro-repeal rally at the University of Southern Maine in Portland today to pressure the two moderate senators, but as the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson pointed out on Friday, new anxieties are emerging. The GOP is pressuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) to allow the Senate to consider more Republican amendments during floor debate and the disagreement “has made moving forward with the defense authorization bill “a partisan issue” for senators who would have otherwise voted in favor of cloture.” “Republicans would have liked to have seen additional amendments considered and so the party leaders on both the majority and minority side are holding their caucuses to these procedural issues on party line,” Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of communications and marketing, told Johnson.
In light of this stagnation, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John Shalikashvili — who is already on record in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — has written a letter to Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging them to move forward with the defense measure:
In particular, I support the DADT repeal language that passed through the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year and is currently part of the pending legislation.
The Pentagon is currently conducting a study on how to implement a policy of open service. Congressional repeal is vital for the Pentagon to implement their findings, whatever they may be. As I have said before, repeal strikes down the law that straitjackets military leaders’ ability to craft a sensible and practical policy about open service. Most importantly, the current repeal language allows the Pentagon the time it may need to answer any questions about how to actually implement the change.
Additionally, repeal would allow military leaders to make personnel decisions based on a person’s skills, experience, and overall job performance. Reflecting on my own service and experience, I’m quite confident that sexual orientation does not impact a person’s ability to defuse IEDs, provide medical care for someone wounded the line of duty, or translate intercepted enemy intelligence into English.
Many Republicans still object to the DADT amendment, citing the objections of the four service chiefs in moving forward with repeal before the Pentagon completes its review of the policy. But those concerns seem overstated. At the Air Force Association’s fall conference over the weekend, for instance, Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz said that “[i]f the law changes, there is no doubt in my mind that all airmen in the U.S. Air Force will implement the change professionally, thoroughly and effectively.” Similarly Marine Corps Commandant and strong DADT supporter Gen. James Conway has said, “And if the law changes and we have homosexual Marines, we’ll be as concerned about their rights, their privileges, their morale, as we will Marines who feel differently about that whole paradigm.” He added that local commanders will be required “to assist us in making sure that every Marine is provided for and is focused on the fight at hand.”
CNN ran a fairly comprehensive segment on the Gaga event and the politics surrounding repeal. Sources are telling the network that it’s “not looking very good” that Reid and McConnell can reach an agreement before tomorrow:
,Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has issues this statement suggesting that she would want to see the results of the Pentagon’s review of DADT before voting to repeal it.
,Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) is unsure if Democrats have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster: “I hope we can get to cloture,” Levin said. “I know a number of you will ask the question, ‘Do we have the votes?’ My answer is, ‘I don’t know whether we have the votes or not.’ I haven’t done a whip check.”