UPDATE @ 9:06 AM: Hearings have begun. Live tweeting from the hearing room are @KerryEleveld, @GetEQUAL and @DavidHallDC. Jillian Weiss at Bilerico and over at Pam’s House Blend, Sue Fulton and JD Smith are liveblogging. We’ll provide highlights — and lowlights.
Today at 9:00 AM ET, the Senate Armed Services Committee holds it first hearing on the Pentagon’s DADT report. Today’s witnesses are Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and the authors of the report: Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham. The Senate Armed Services Committee will livecast the event here. The hearing will also be broadcast on C-SPAN 3.
The hearings play out against a very contentious backdrop in the Senate. All 42 GOPers, including our alleged allies, signed a letter stating that there will be no action on anything until they get their way on taxes and spending. That, of course, means the Defense bill with the DADT language.
Ed O’Keefe and Ben Pershing at the Washington Post touched base with key Senators. We’re still hearing the same messages from McCain and Collins:
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the committee’s ranking Republican, was reading the report, a spokeswoman said. He disagrees with how the Pentagon reviews the issue and has called for a new study.
The GOP lawmakers’ vow to block non-spending bills “definitely raises the stress level and adds another complication into the mix,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, a group pushing to end the ban. “But I think there is some hope.”
Activists want Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to stand by her promise to vote with Democrats on the measure if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) allows for the introduction of Republican amendments.
Kevin Kelley, a Collins spokesman, said, “Preventing a tax increase and keeping the government operating are her top priorities, but passing a defense authorization bill is also a priority.”
Other senators signaled uneasiness Wednesday.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has not declared his position on the matter, said that if the percentage of combat troops opposed to ending the ban was significantly higher, “that raises concerns for me.”
Collins, of course, won’t define her exact demands so she can always blame the process. And, yeah, it’s not only Republicans who are problems. Besides Manchin, don’t forget, homophobe Mark Pryor (D-AR) said over the weekend that he won’t support any legislation with the DADT language — and the gays are sinners.
Time is running out. And, let’s not forget that the White House crafted this strategy. It was deliberate. The White House brain trust, led by Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina, wanted the DADT vote after the midterm elections. They really do think that dealing with gay issues is a problem. I call that political homophobia. It’s also political stupidity. The same people who concocted the DADT strategy also put together the rest of Obama’s agenda. Look where that’s gotten us.
Obama really needs to step up. Yesterday, Chris Johnson reported:
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he’s unaware of any attempt by President Obama to convince fence-sitting senators to support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal following the release of the Pentagon report on the military’s gay ban — but said Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made calls to influence lawmakers.
Asked by the Washington Blade on Wednesday whether the president has been reaching out to senators following publication of the study, Gibbs replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”
That’s really disturbing. Given the problems the President has with his base, one would think that if he were engaged, the White House would want us to know.
If repeal is going to happen, the President needs to put some skin in the game before it really is too late. That means using the bully pulpit — and calling Senators. He’s apparently not doing either.
We need to pressure the President to engage. Sign our letter to Obama here.