Today, via Ben Smith, we learn that Aubrey Sarvis, the Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), wrote a letter directly to President Obama asking him to get involved in the effort to repeal DADT this year. After all, that was Obama’s promise to the nation in the State of the Union on January 27th. Sarvis says that he’s heard from multiple sources on the Hill that the Obama administration is telling congress not to vote on DADT this year:
I am very disturbed by multiple reports from Capitol Hill that your Congressional liaison team is urging some Members of Congress to avoid a vote on repeal this year. The upcoming House and Senate votes will be close, and very frankly, Mr. President, we need your help now.
In the letter, Sarvis makes it clear that time is running out to get repeal done this year. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will soon be marking up the Department of Defense authorization bills, which offers the best hope for repeal.
Last week, John reported that he and I “were just informed that the White House congressional liaison office is telling US House members not to include the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the Defense Authorization bill, and not to have a vote on DADT on the House floor, this year.” In response, an unnamed “White House official” issued a response denying our report, without stating whether or not the White House did indeed want a vote this year. John deconstructed that response here. After reading the Sarvis letter, it’s clear we’re not the only people hearing that a delay is being urged. This is a significant development and the White House needs to address it from a named official this time: the Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, is in charge of the DADT strategy. Someone needs to ask him if the White House wants DADT repealed this year.
Kerry Eleveld talked to Sarvis about this letter. He indicated the roadblock was coming from officials at the Pentagon:
Sarvis told The Advocate that he has gotten reports from Capitol Hill staffers in both the Senate and House that representatives from the Department of Defense have asked them to hold off on taking a vote to end the policy until a report on how to implement repeal is completed. The study, ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February, is due in early December.
“The administration is saying, ‘Look, the working group has its task, their work is not concluded until the end of the year, and we would prefer that this not be voted on this year,’” Sarvis said.
Asked if the directive came from the officials at the White House or the Defense Department, Sarvis said, “It’s the Pentagon, but the Pentagon is part of the administration.”
That is indeed true. The Pentagon is under the command of Obama. This also comports with what Secretary Gates said last month. He indicated that he didn’t want a change in the law until his study was done — and he indicated that the President was comfortable with that strategy. So, the White House could deny what AMERICAblog reported. Will they deny this charge from Sarvis, too?
From the tone of the letter, it’s obvious SLDN sees an urgency. No wonder. SLDN is the organization that represents servicemembers who are being discharged. This isn’t about access and party invitations for SLDN. It’s about people’s live. And, these people are willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us. The groups representing our gay and lesbian servicemembers speak with moral authority. The White House really should listen to them. Obama needs to get control of this situation. He made the promise to repeal DADT “this year.” He needs to make sure his staff is getting it done. If the Democrats suffer serious losses in November, the opportunity to repeal DADT may be lost for years. Repeal has to happen “this year.”
Here’s the letter to the President from Aubrey Sarvis:
SLDN’s Letter to the President http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf