President Obama will sign a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy this morning, something “the nation’s first African-American chief executive is likely to hail as another civil rights milestone.” “Gay and lesbian service members — brave Americans who enable our freedoms — will no longer have to hide who they are,” Obama said in an e-mail to supporters.
The House will stay in session an extra day to vote on the 9/11 health care bill for rescue workers who responded to Ground Zero. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that the Senate will tweak and “finish the bill between 2pm and 4pm” today.
The Senate is expected to finally pass the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia today, after weeks of intense Republican opposition. A vote to end debate yesterday passed 67-28, mustering the 2/3rds majority necessary for final passage. “We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
“The 111th Congress made more law affecting more Americans since the ‘Great Society’ legislation of the 1960s,” a Bloomberg analysis notes, citing health care, Wall Street reform, the stimulus, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and START. “It’s all the more impressive given how polarized the Congress has been,” said Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is blaming illegal immigrants for Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat in the latest census, saying that illegal immigrants are being counted in other states, thus penalizing states that don’t “welcome” them. “Louisiana stands to lose clout in Congress, while states that welcome illegal immigrants stand to unfairly benefit from artificially inflated population totals,” he said in a statement.
President Obama promised the Congressional Hispanic Caucus yesterday “that he will not give up on the DREAM Act” or comprehensive immigration reform. The huddle with five Hispanic members “was intended to plan a way forward for immigration reform” in a Republican-dominated Congress next year.
In his farewell speech to the Senate yesterday, one-time Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) blasted the GOP for engaging in “sophisticated cannibalism” by backing tea party candidates, and warned that members of his former party “had grown too ideological for the good” of the Senate. “In some quarters, ‘compromising’ has become a dirty word. Some senators insist on ideological purity as a precondition,” Specter said.
President Obama’s advisers are planning to meet this week to discuss a draft executive order creating a periodic review system of Guantanamo prisoners who have been detained without trial. Initiated in 2009, the proposal would establish a board “to evaluate whether each detainee poses a continued threat, or whether he can be safely transferred to another country.”
And finally: In an op-ed in the New York Times, ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ creator Larry David thanked Congress for the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, “of which I am a proud member, thank you very much.” David ticked off a list of items he plans to spend his extra cash on, including a first class plane ticket to Cabo, a flat screen TV, and “blueberries.” “Life was good, and now it’s even better. Thank you, Republicans. … I didn’t know you cared,” he wrote.