Give credit where credit is due. Who would have thought that the lame duck congressional session would be so productive and bring important benefits to NJ? Not me. I still wish that several months ago President Obama had drawn a line in the sand against keeping the same low tax rate for the very wealthy and providing them with an unconscionable break on estate taxes. However, look at what in a very short period he has accomplished. After the elections the Republicans remained the party of NO threatening obstruction against all manner of bills. Then we found out that Obama was able to resucitate the duck and it took off in flight.
After a 17-year roller coaster of uncertainty, Republican antipathy, and valiant efforts of supporters, the Senate today did us proud. Its members overcame a filibuster and will shortly vote to repeal the injurious, unworkable Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Kudos to our two NJ senators who supported the repeal.
It was long overdue. Public opinion polls, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, members of the armed forces and even some Republicans were ready to move forward. Before the vote to limit debate, Senator Lieberman said, “Removing legalized discrimination is an American value.” The vote was 63-33.
Having ended the filibuster, the Senate is expected to formally vote on DADT later today. The House already passed the bill earlier this week. For procedural reasons the repeal will not take effect until at least 60 days.
This will be a companion diary to Bill’s excellent post this morning. We wrote our posts at the same time, so this one was held until after Bill’s. – REE
As expected, New Jersey’s congressional delegation split along party lines in yesterday’s historic stand-alone vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the wildly misnamed, ineffective and exclusionary rule that has governed the United States Armed Forces since 1993 during the Clinton administration. The policy was never fair, and it never worked. Theoretically it restricted the military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers or applicants, while at the same time barring those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service.
It is time for this rollercoaster nightmare to end and there to be justice for the LGBT community which serves so bravely but precariously in our armed forces. Only through a successful Senate vote during the current lameduck session does it appear likely that our New Jersey LGBT service men and women will be granted the respect, courtesy and rights due to them.
It seems every day in December is a big day for legislatures as they work to finish up business for the year. Here’s the significant news of the day from New Jersey’s Members of Congress.
A minority of Republican senators blocked the Defense Authorization Act. Senator Lautenberg tells it like it is:
“Senate Republicans refuse to even begin debating a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. The other side has run out of excuses. Eliminating ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do and would ensure that our military policy reflects the values of our nation.
“The fact that Republican Senators are willing to hold up a bill that provides vital resources to our troops and ends discrimination in our military is deplorable. I will continue working to pass a Defense Authorization bill that provides our military with the equipment and services they need while also bringing an end to discrimination within the ranks.”
Of course, Democrats letting Republicans takes “hostages” will go on as long as our Senators and our President let them. Why did they add DADT to the bill if they give up anyway? What was the point?
More below on the Anthrax investigation, water supplies for the Delaware River Basin, 9/11 Responders, and Iran.
We now have both debates available on video, both below.
A few observations: Lance goes – many times – to the dusty GOP tactic of mentioning Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as though she’s some kind of demi-witch, just in time for Halloween, with evil intentions that well-meaning Republicans must protect America from. It’s quite overdone, and in the News 12 debate, Potosnak finally calls him on it, and reminds him of who he’s actually running against and who he’s not. The DADT conversation is interesting; Lance voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (he rates only 38% Human Rights Campaign’s scorecard). On the War question, Potosnak is unequivocal, a very clear position. Lance uses the opportunity to claim bi-partisanship with Obama, and try and trump Potosnak by showing off an incumbent congressman’s access to classified briefings. Not too subtle. Also interesting is how assertive, aggressive even, he is toward Lance’s record on several issues, particularly on economic issues. More than a few times, particularly in the News12 debate where the candidates are sitting 2 feet apart, Potosnak stared him down. Lance is good on his feet, a consummate speaker, but several times he appeared rattled and angry.
For the rest of this, frankly, I feel too close to this race (it’s my District, and I helped bring Democracy for America (DFA) into the race, full disclosure) to be objective. So, Blue Jersey, I’d be interested in what you think. Of both debates.
NJ-7 Debate, sponsored by News 12 New Jersey 10/20/10
The only other debate (just 2 days earlier) is very different, and you can watch it after the jump. So, jump:
The relentless and unprecedented obstructionism of the Senate minority claimed a new victim Tuesday, as 43 Senators denied a historic opportunity to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Tuesday’s vote to obstruct debate of the National Defense Authorization Act – which also has the effect of blocking such priorities as preventing military suicides and increasing military pay – continues to delay the inevitable day when this policy ends and gay men and women will be able to serve openly in our armed forces. It would be best for our nation that we end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell sooner, not later.
Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not simply about providing equal rights. It’s about preventing the hemorrhage of critical military talent from an already-overstretched American military engaged in two wars. When I travel to meet American servicemen and women in the war theater, no one discusses their personal lives. Nobody should because it doesn’t matter. What matters is what they are doing to complete their missions and that they come home safely.
The real question is why are we depriving our armed forces of some of their most important resources? Why are we discharging skilled Arabic linguists, fighter pilots, and weapons officers? Why have we discharged more than 13,000 service members since 1994?
Is it because it would damage morale, as some continue to argue? In fact, gays have served in our military since the American Revolution. The supposed ‘damaged morale’ didn’t lead to our losing to the Redcoats or surrendering to the Germans in two World Wars. Allowing gay Americans to serve openly won’t weaken morale in our armed forces.
There is no good reason for this policy to continue, as leaders like Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen have made clear.
Just as President Truman was right to desegregate the Armed Forces more than half a century ago, it is time we ensure that LGBT soldiers finally can serve openly.
Last night the House voted for the compromise measure, a pathway for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), a stupid discriminatory piece of legislation that actually weakened national security and perhaps only made the radical religious fascists in America sleep better. Well, maybe not the self hating closeting among them.
All NJ House Democrats voted for the repeal. All NJ House Republicans, yes even the so-called “moderates”, voted to keep DADT in place.
Okay, this has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of days now. I really just have to post it because it just looks like so damned much fun. This is the guys from Delta Lambda Phi Rutgers Colony, on Rutgers Day last weekend – their first – with a Lady Gaga mashup. The politics chaser was a surprise, and it comes in the last few seconds …
Please join me in calling our Senators to urge them to repeal the military’s so called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that discriminates against gays and lesbians who want to serve their country in the US Military.
I’ll spare you the reasons why discrimination sucks and simply remind you that this issue demands your urgent attention.
Lautenberg’s contant info is (202)-224-3224
Menendez is at (202)-224-4744.
Timing is everything in Washington and now is the time to light a fire under our Senators to vote AND to fight to repeal this retrograde policy.