DADT is quickly becoming a big hot-potato issue on the hill. It seems that everyone wants to avoid taking action the bill; the Dems turn to the president, the Republicans turn a blind eye to the issue, the military wants a study, and Obama is standing with his hands firmly in his pockets, waiting for someone else to make the first move. Meanwhile, LGBT groups are turning up the heat on legislators,
Secretary Gates has upped the ante, however, with yesterday's comments to a house committee. Says the AP:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is warning Congress not to tamper with the military's ban on openly gay service members until he can come up with his own plan for repeal. In a strongly worded letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Gates told a House committee on Friday that forcing policy changes on the military before it's ready "would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter."
On the surface, this seems like business as usual on the Hill. Everyone is passing the buck, trying to run out the clock on potentially controversial legislation. Even with LGBT groups actively practicing non-violent civil disobedience on the hill, keeping the issue fresh in the minds of the media, the run-the-clock mentality still continues to drive legislation
However, there may be a better explanation for the weak show on drafting a law. DADT may be preparing to steal home by a squeeze play.
Press releases are all over the place in regards to DADT, from lobby groups to legislators alike. I'd like to point out two specific releases that caught my attention. From D-NY Kirsten Gillibrand:
I respectfully disagree with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen [. . .] Congress should not sit on their hands. Now is the time for Congress to show strong leadership and repeal this disastrous policy.
And from Speaker Pelosi:
We all look forward to the report on the review of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy by the Defense Department. In the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.
Straightforward requests, for sure, but Obama seems content to let the Pentagon take the driver's seat on this policy. There is little chance of a moratorium in the future, and little chance that he will act on the issue anytime soon.
It's no secret that DADT faces the threat of filibuster in the Senate. Despite overwhelming support by the American public, and slam-dunk passage in the house, getting the bill the 60% vote it will require for passage in the Senate will be a tall order. Without the votes, there's no reason to move on the bill, right? Better to let the people protest and get angry than worry about trying to pass controversial legislation.
There is a way around the filibuster, however, in slipping DADT repeal into the defense budget. What if - and this is only if - legislators are actually banking on the increased pressure to push the repeal effort into the budget? We saw a similar strategy with ENDA this year: while the activist community was convinced that ENDA was once again dead in the water we are suddenly back in the game. Perhaps DADT repeal is "playing possum" in a similar way to avoid attracting too much controversy and attention.
This would jive with the HRC's promise of repeal within the year. Who knows? Old Joe may still know something we don't. Maybe this non-action on drafting a law is just a bunt to sneak the bill into the defense budget. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, we need to keep hounding our representatives on the issue. If our support tapers off, so will their will to vote!