Last night, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) called for unanimous consent to bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor of the Senate after the August recess. The bill includes an amendment to begin the process of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who earlier in the day reassured reporters that he woud not filibuster the measure, objected.
In the debate that followed, McCain misrepresented the language of the DADT repeal amendment and accused Levin of attaching “social legislation” — the hate crames bill — to last year’s defense measure. Levin reminded McCain that DADT won’t be repealed until the Pentagon and the President certify the review of the policy and explained how hate crimes relates to national defense:
MCCAIN: I’m not going to allow us to move forward and I will be discussing with out leaders and the 41 members of this side of the aisle as to whether we’re going to move forward with a bill that contains a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy repealed before, before a meaningful survey on the impact of battle effectiveness and morale on the men and women who are serving this nation in uniform. It’s again…moving forward with a social agenda on legislation that was intended to ensure this nation’s security.
LEVIN: It was a Senate Armed Services Committee bill that put into place Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The provision that we have in there now, that changes that policy, makes it conditional upon that survey being completed and the certification from the military leaders that there is no negative impact on morale….But the main point is, that the place to debate these policies is on the floor of the Senate. ….I’m not going to deny the Senate the opportunity ot take up a bill that is essential for the men and women in the military because I disagree with some provisions in that bill. I would then move to strike those provisions, if I disagree that much, if we can get the bill to the floor….
MCCAIN: Instead of, perhaps the senator from Michigan can tell me what hate crimes had to do with the defense of this nation. It had everything to do with his social agenda, so I object.
LEVIN: Mr. President, I would be happy to tell the Senator from Arizona what the hate crimes bill has to do with the defense of this country. Men and women who defend this country, defend this country for a lot of reasons, one of them is that we try to act against hate in this country. That’s one of the values that we stand for, is that we try to defeat hate.
In some ways, McCain’s unwillingness to debate the defense authorization measure is ironic, given his emphasis on military service throughout the 2008 Presidential campaign and frequent jabs at Obama for allegedly allowing the issue of Iraq to trump the needs of the military. McCain accused Obama — who at the time voted against the defense authorization measure because it did not include a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq — of embracing the policy of surrender and called his vote “the equivalent of waving a white flag to al-Qaeda.” That year, McCain also lashed out against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) for temporarily pulling the Defense measure, asking “What have we done by not passing the Defense Authorization bill?” “We have placed the care of our wounded veterans in a lower priority than a debate over Iraq.”
Now, McCain is apparently comfortable placing “the care of our wounded veterans in a lower priority than” a debate about DADT — a policy he had previously questioned. Since the issue came to a head, McCain began lying about the repeal amendment’s language and even promised at one point to threatened the entire defense authorization measure in protest.