After the Senate’s failure on Tuesday to pass the National Defense Authorization Act which contained language to clear the legislative roadblock to a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the military’s ban on gay soldiers serving openly, the blame game has firmly begun.
Below is a roundup of reactions from various parties who advocated for the repeal as they rebuke one another.
LGBT Groups Blame GOP and Political Maneuvering
From Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the national, non-profit legal group dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:
Statement by Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:
“Today’s Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law. We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections. Let’s be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay. Time is the enemy here. We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we’ll have a slim shot. The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will continue to take this fight to the American people, the vast majority of whom support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
HRC Calls on Justice Department Not to Appeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Court Case in Wake of Senate Loss
Today military readiness and national security were set back as Senator John McCain successfully led a Republican filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to which the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is attached. Not since 1948 has Congress failed to act on the NDAA. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has committed to bringing the bill back up following the election.
“This filibuster was election year politics at its worst,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “It’s a shame that during a time of war, Senators wouldn’t even allow debate on the bill that provides a pay raise for our troops.”
Nearly 80 percent of Americans support repealing DADT according to a recent CNN poll. President Obama and military leadership, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen also support repeal. Under the language in the NDAA, implementation of repeal would not occur until after the completion of the Pentagon Working Group study due December 1 of this year and upon certification.
The aforementioned military study the Obama administration agreed to must also be marked as an issue because it allowed Republican moderates like Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) to justify voting to filibuster as a reason for legislators to wait before voting to change the policy, saying it would be prudent to see the results of the study before proceeding — a reasonable argument and one that should have been anticipated.
Reid Blames Senate Republicans
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come under fire from the Republican opposition for his procedural tactics in blocking GOP amendments from being considered.
However, Reid is firmly blaming the GOP for the Senate’s failure to pass the defense authorization bill:
Republicans Shamelessly Standing Between Our Troops and What They Need To Do Their Jobs, Keep Us Safe
“Republicans are again playing politics with our national security.
Today they blocked the Senate from debating a bill that would give our troops the resources they need to keep America safe – stopping not only funding for combat vehicles and bulletproof vests or measures to improve our military’s readiness, but even a well-earned pay raise to help our troops and their families make ends meet.
“I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues put partisan politics ahead of the best interests of the men and women who courageously defend our nation. Democrats will continue to fight for our troops and will work to ensure that our troops have the resources they need to do their jobs.”
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Reid has countered accusations that his plan to attach the DREAM Act was a non-germane amendment as Republican Senator John McCain and others had labeled it.
Reid is quoted as saying: “The Defense Department’s strategic plan explicitly states that passage of the DREAM Act is critical to helping the military shape and maintain a mission-ready all-volunteer force[,]” referring to the fact that the Act would allow undocumented youths the chance to receive citizenship through military service. That this will convince his detractors seems doubtful…
GOProud Blames Harry Reid
Gay Republican groups have singled out Reid, with GOProud laying the blame firmly on Reid and the Democratic leadership:
Harry Reid Kills Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal
Statement of Christopher R Barron, Chairman of the GOProud Board
(Washington, D.C.) – “Just now on the floor of the Senate, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a consent agreement that would have allowed for a vote on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and provided a fair framework for the debate. Unfortunately, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected this offer – and as a result, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal has died in the Senate.
“The defeat of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal lies solely with Harry Reid and the Democrat leadership. Harry Reid is playing political games with the lives of the brave gay men and women serving in our military. It’s clear now that Lady GaGa should have held her Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal rally in Nevada instead of Maine.”
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While groups like GOProud are sometimes accused of putting party politics before LGBT rights, this criticism has been expressed by others.
The executive director of Servicemembers United, a leading voice for repeal, published a piece before the vote asking if Sen. Reid was setting the bill up to fail.
Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin highlights how Reid was once thought to have Senator Susan Collin’s (R-ME) vote, but his precluding of Republican amendments provoked her to vote to keep the filibuster in place. In a separate piece, Burroway muses that the entire vote was just political theater set up to fail from the start but necessary so that Democratic senators could appear to be tackling these issues ahead of the midterms — speculation, perhaps, but worthy of a read, no pun intended.
That said, Senator Reid’s procedural “no” vote on Tuesday allows him to once again bring the legislation to the floor in the lame duck session after the elections, but the success of this action is by no means guaranteed and the threat of McCain’s opposition — which came before the stumbling block of the DREAM Act and Reid’s preventing Republican amendments — still looms.
White House Spokesman Blames Republican Filibuster Use
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs took a swipe at the minority party’s use of the filibuster, expressing the White House’s disappointment at the move.
Speaking at roughly the same time that a Republican-led faction killed consideration of the DADT amendment — which would have overturned the prohibition of gay members from serving openly in the military — White House spokesman Robert Gibbs focused largely on the procedural implications of the vote.
“Sixty is the new 50 and I don’t mean age,” he said. “To do anything in this town now you have to get 60 votes. And it is certainly not the way that many of the people who work in the Senate, including senators, thought that this is the way it ought to work.”
Gibbs also stressed the “frustration” he and other White House officials feel over the fact that funding for the “Pentagon and for our troops” had been delayed. He also re-affirmed the president’s commitment to DADT repeal and the Dream Act.
“I don’t think this is the end,” he offered, before punting on a question as to whether or not the package of legislation will be passed in the lame duck session after the November elections. “Obviously there will be a whole host of issues including DADT that remain undecided. Our focus right now is trying to get the business of the people done as congress remains in session.”
Criticism has also been directed at President Obama for failing to lobby senators hard enough (or at all) on this issue. Notably, two Democratic senators voted with the Republican filibuster (not counting Reid’s procedural vote). For a full vote tally, please click here.
In related news, the Department of Justice filed on Thursday its response to the Log Cabin Republican (LCR) suit that saw DADT ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge and precipitated a proposed injunction against DADT discharges.
In the 14-page brief, the department contended that the permanent injunction Judge Phillips has sort to consider would be “untenable” and therefore should be confined to the Plaintiffs alone. However, a press release from the White House announcing the filing specifically mentions the following: “This filing in no way diminishes the President’s firm commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT – indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”
The DOJ contends enforcement of an injunction precluding the military study would undermine the legislative repeal — a familiar argument at this juncture.
Log Cabin Republican attorneys countered, saying this is the same argument the DOJ used during the trial and does nothing to answer the fact that DADT has been ruled to violate lesbian and gay soldiers’ First and Fifth Amendment rights. Read more about the DOJ’s filing against the injunction here.
The DOJ has yet to file an appeal of the Court’s overall decision — and it may not — but this case has forced the Obama administration into a difficult position coming, as it does, so soon after the failed attempt at repealing the legislative portion of the military’s gay ban.
Filibuster Needs Fixing?
It seems a catalog of mistakes and miscalculations has occurred where the repeal legislation is concerned, starting with how the legislation was conceived alongside a military study that undercut the effort to repeal from the outset, to legislators using procedural tactics to score points off one another which overshadowed the legislation at hand.
As such, one last statement that caught my eye comes from the Palm Center, a national think tank on DADT repeal. The group highlights that, while the blame game rolls on, LGB soldiers continue to suffer under this disruptive, harmful and unconstitutional policy:
“Discharges and discrimination will continue because of today’s vote in the Senate. This was not just a vote on whether to end a filibuster. This was a vote on the Senate floor on whether to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. military,” stated Christopher Neff, Deputy Executive Director of the Palm Center.
The unsuccessful override of the filibuster now means that debate will not begin on the NDAA until after the November election. Neff added: “The focus will now turn to the White House and their decision on appealing the current ruling by Judge Phillips in the Federal District Court.”
While all eyes are on the White House for how it will now handle the LCR lawsuit, one obvious point of contention remains the filibuster rule.
If you think the Senate minority party’s ability to require a 60 vote super-majority in order to proceed with legislation should be altered (whether the minority party is Republican or Democratic), you can click here to sign the Care2 petition and call for the filibuster to be fixed.
Read more: civil rights, dadt, dadt discharges halted, dadt survey, dan choi, dont ask dont tell, gay rights, john mccain, lgbt rights, military defense, military readiness enhancement act, militarytmc, pentagon, president obama, veterans
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