Just got off a conference call organized by SLDN. The call was billed as a preview of the week ahead “to discuss repealing DADT in the Senate’s lame-duck session, the release of the Comprehensive Working Group Report and the U.S. Senate hearings this week.” It gave a good overview of what we can expect moving forward. I tried to capture the highlights.
SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis began the call by saying, “I think we’re going to see a very historic day unfold before us.” He reported that briefers from the Pentagon were on the Hill this morning to brief Senators and staffers for Armed Services Committee on the report. Aubrey noted that the Executive Summary will be released at 1 pm with a Press Briefing at 2 PM.
Aubrey also said,”We think that this report will be overwhelmingly positive and very constructive.” And, he added, “It will be one of the best tools that repeal advocates can use in the lame duck session.”
“Historic” and “helpful” were the operative words.
When asked about the road ahead in Senate given the claim from Senator Lindsey Graham that the votes aren’t there to move the Defense bill, Aubrey said that the hearings this Thursday and Friday will be positive. He noted that there is a great challenge for the Majority Leader to lay down the Defense Authorization bill next week. Aubrey acknowledged that we will need 60 votes to move forward because he does expect McCain to object — again. According to Sarvis, we’ll need a couple more Democrats who weren’t there in September and a couple of Republicans. Aubrey said it is still possible to get to 60.
The road ahead won’t be easy. Aubrey noted that there is pressure from McConnell to view this as a caucus issue and to not allow anything to happen in lame duck.
One way or another, Aubrey said we need to get the repeal language done, “If there’s a will, I think this can happen.” Repeal advocates are keeping an eye on what other bills need to move in the lame duck as other possible vehicles for the DADT language. For example, some provisions of the Defense Authorization can be attached to the continuing resolution.
Aubrey stated that it will be much more difficult to get it done in the next Congress. Importantly, Secretary Gates recognizes that, too.
Aubrey hasn’t received any indication that Secretary Gates will be actively engaging Senators in the repeal process. He did note that Gates has called upon the Senate to repeal in lame duck. Senator Collins has requested a one-on-one briefing with Gates on the report, and she will probably get that meeting — as would any other member of the Senate.
I asked Aubrey how we’ll know if this is a fair process moving forward or whether the Defense bill will get caught up in procedural games. He said there have been good signs from the Majority Leader, Harry Reid. For example, Reid has committed that there will be time for McCain motion to strike the DADT language. Aubrey went on to note that we have to see that each side gets a number of amendments to call up. If it’s a “real” number, Senators on both side will see that. That probably means more than five. Both the Majority Leader and key GOP Senators have “to put something on the table.” Then, we can see how far apart the two sides are. Aubrey suggested that repeal advocates call the key senators and ask them: what do you think constitutes a fair process. Clearly, a “fair process” is in the eye of the beholder.
We also heard from Victor Fehrenbach who noted that the survey will show what he is living: being gay doesn’t matter to active duty personnel. He also noted that while the report showed 70% support within the military for open service, he’s gotten 100% support from those with whom he serves.
Mike Almy also addressed McCain’s errant claim that military doesn’t pursue gay servicemembers. Almy was discharged after someone searched his private emails, so he knows first-hand that isn’t true. And, he’s tried to educate McCain on that fact. Almy said that after McCain’s press conference in September, he made daily attempts to contact the Senator in person, but got no response. McCain has also ignored requests from two flag officers from Arizona (retired military constituents) who asked to meet with him on the issue, too. But, no response. Almy also noted that Lindsey Graham is a JAG and “a fellow air force officer.” Graham should know that the policy has been abused and violated.
SLDN will be going to court to fight DADT. Expect action in the Ninth Circuit (because good law has been established there through the Witt case) as early as next week on behalf of discharged vets to seek reinstatement. In addition, SLDN will seek to get other discharged vets back into the reserves and allow gays who have never served to get into the military in other jurisdictions.
In closing, Aubrey noted that that there will be some pockets of resistance. At the Senate hearing on Friday, “we will hear about concerns and resistance from Service Chiefs.” But, if Congress repeals, the Chiefs have said they will implement.
One last thing: on this date in 1993, DADT became law when President Clinton signed the Defense Authorization bill for FY94.