June 1, 2010
By Julia Rosen
What a week for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the Hill. Just when many people started to believe that it was increasingly unlikely that DADT would be repealed this year in Congress, a compromise emerged.
Here’s where we stand now. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee added the repeal language to the defense authorization bill with a 16-12 vote behind closed doors. Later the full House voted 229-186 to add the identical repeal language to their version of the defense bill. The entire House voted on Friday to pass the defense bill. Now all we need is the full Senate to approve their defense bill, then it goes to reconciliation (where the bills get merged) and on to President Obama’s desk for a signature.
While the chiefs of the branches of the military are sending letters saying this is not a done deal, it is and here is why. The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines do not set the policy of which sexual orientations are allowed to serve in the military. This language in the defense bill gives that to the Defense Secretary (Gates), the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Mullen) and the Commander in Chief (Obama). Gates/Mullen are working on a report on how (not if) to implement repeal. The military is getting input from service members for that report. More from Aravosis:
The train has left the station, and the cat is out of the bag. It’s over. McHugh and Casey lost, fair and square. The President, their boss, said what he wanted to do, Congress put its stamp on the proposal, and is in the process of enacting it into law. With all due respect to McHugh and Casey, it is now irrelevant that they think the repeal of DADT is not a done deal. The commander in chief and Congress have now spoken. Game over. They lost. They don’t get to revisit the issue, like some Argentine junta, simply because they disagree with the democratic outcome.
As the media made clear last week, everyone thinks that Congress voted to repeal DADT last week. And everyone in Congress thinks they did the same. That’s why people like Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) refused to endorse the compromise – because he thought the compromise would make DADT repeal a “done deal.” That’s why all of the joint chiefs wrote to McCain to stop the legislation from being passed last week – and it’s why two of the chiefs thought that the legislation outright repealed DADT. Because they thought that the compromise was in effect repeal, and thus made repeal a done deal.
I’ll say it again. Regardless of whether you think the compromise will lead to full repeal next year, all of the actors in this drama – from the President, to the Democrats and even Republicans in Congress, to the joint chiefs – all believed that a vote for this legislation was a vote for full repeal. That the intent of our elected leaders, was full repeal. Period.
Aravosis also asked Speaker Pelosi today about the current dust up over what the chiefs of the military are saying about the language that just passed in Congress. Her response “This is over.”
This could still get screwed up. We don’t know what will be in the Gates/Mullen report, but what is important is that we project strength. That way when things go wrong we can organize an outcry and say that was not Congress’s intent. Congress repealed DADT and told Gates/Mullen to finish what they started, finding a way to implement the repeal in accordance with the wishes of the President of the United States. Change isn’t easy or quick and we must stay vigilant, if we are going to ensure that service members can serve openly and proudly.
And don’t forget that McCain is vowing to filibuster the full defense authorization bill in the Senate. That will be a major battle.