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04/19/2007


Senator Carl Levin 'Can Understand the Resentment in the Gay Community' About the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Troop Survey

Talking Points Memo reports that at a breakfast this morning Senator Carl Levin discussed the controversial survey sent to 400,000 troops by the Pentagon yesterday, asking them about the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and said he "can understand the resentment in the gay community" over it.

Levin He also said it's important that troops understand the survey is not meant to give them "veto power" over the repeal.

TPM:

Levin said during the breakfast that the surveys, which have sparked uproar in the LGBT community, are unprecedented since troops weren't asked when the military increased inclusion of women. "It's a very good idea to get the attitude of the troops on things," he said. But Levin said it's important troops do not think they have "veto power" but rather that they understand they are answering the questions to help implement the inevitable repeal of the Clinton-era policy.

"A lot depends about how the survey is worded ... [the Pentagon must] make sure they understand military leadership made a decision," he said. "[Military leaders are] asking these questions as a way to help us implement this effectively."

Levin said he hadn't yet read the survey (read the survey obtained by TPM here) and isn't yet sure it is "fair." But Levin said that he thinks the Pentagon should have asked if it's okay to discriminate against LGBT people in the first place. He said while some troops would answer they aren't comfortable showering with comrades they know to be gay or lesbian, it's unlikely many would believe their LGBT colleagues should be treated differently. He said as far as he knows, Congress was not consulted on the survey's wording.

Levin said he does not expect a filibuster of the Defense bill to which the repeal is attached, and said that any moves to strike it from the legislation would probably fail.

Yesterday, I posted a long round-up of reactions to the survey. You can read it HERE.

A short clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

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McCain Planning Major Filibuster of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Senate

Mccain

Desperate to hold on to his Senate site, John McCain is aligning himself with the right-wing fringe and hate groups we posted about yesterday and is planning a filibuster of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill in the Senate.

Keith Olbermann discussed some of the haters and McCain with Dan Savage last night.

Senator Carl Levin, the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is planning an 11:30 am conference call to discuss the DADT measure, FOX News reports.

Watch Olbermann, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Paper: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Vote This Week 'Too Close to Call'

This is "do or die" week for repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Washington Post weighs in on where we're at:

Levin

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote by the end of the week on an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would end "don't ask, don't tell," which Congress passed in 1993. Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) favors a repeal, but it is unclear whether he has enough votes, with six senators on the panel considered undecided, legislative sources said.

The House is expected to vote on a similar measure this week, based on a repeal proposal sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq war veteran. The House Armed Services Committee declined to act on Murphy's bill in passing its version of the defense spending measure last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told gay advocacy groups that she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal.

"This is our 'all hands on deck' moment," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents gays who have been drummed out of the armed forces. "For repeal to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now, including the White House. We are only a few days away from this historic vote."

Shalikashvili Former Chair of the Joint Chiefs John Shalikashvili wrote an editorial in Saturday's Washington Post advising Congress to repeal DADT now, and let the Pentagon act later.

Writes Shalikashvili: "'Don't ask, don't tell' is both a federal law and a Pentagon policy. The law ties the military's hands on this issue. If Congress fails to repeal it, the Pentagon's study process will be compromised because the Defense Department will not have the authority to implement its own recommendations. Fortunately, there is an option that fully respects the secretary's request to Congress while moving forward on a reasonable timetable. Congress could repeal the federal statute and return authority to the military to set rules about gay troops, just as the armed services had before "don't ask, don't tell" became law in 1993."

A NYT editorial on Friday offered similar advice.


DADT Repeal Efforts Continue Despite Military Objections

The optimistic news on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", from Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

Levin "Alex Nicholson, executive director of gay veterans group Servicemembers United, said because of the legislative options he was more optimistic about the chances for repeal than he had been in recent months. 'For the first time in a long time I think that we have a realistic, politically viable path to repeal right now,' he said. 'It will depend on what kind of buy-in we get from key members on the committee and from the White House.' Despite Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging Congress not to vote on repeal this year, Levin has has continued to push forward with the effort. 'The president says he wants to repeal ‘Don’t ask.’ Why shouldn’t we repeal it?' Levin told Congressional Quarterly earlier this week. Though Gates’s objections have posed a challenge to swaying a handful of legislators on the committee, one person with knowledge of the matter said repeal supporters were on the verge of securing the final votes. 'We’re very close — within one or two votes — and we feel optimistic about that,' said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Levin has been characterized as "a hero" in efforts to keep repeal alive.

And the infuriating news (we've been strung along for months, as many suspected, that there was any support for repeal this year from the White House despite Obama's State of the Union promise):

"Throughout the efforts, the White House has continued to remain in the background. A second source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the White House was partially in a bind based on an agreement White House officials had made with Defense Department officials earlier this year to let the Pentagon’s working group study reach completion before pushing for a repeal vote. The source, who had knowledge of the meeting, said discussions around “the process” began in December and were finalized in January, when prospects for the administration’s main agenda items, such as health care reform, were still looking grim. The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this article."


Levin: DADT Repeal Will Go in Defense Bill if Votes are There

Lieberman

Today was the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" lobby day on Capitol hill. Hundreds of gay and lesbian veterans lobbied lawmakers to repeal the ban. Here's a photo Senator Joe Lieberman tweeted of himself with HRC President Joe Solmonese and a group of veterans.

Lieberman2

Solmonese criticized the President today for his inaction:

"President Barack Obama promised in his State of the Union address that he would work with Congress and the Pentagon to repeal DADT this year. The nation’s top two defense officials spoke in favor of repeal just a few weeks later. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made clear that a new department study would look into how, not if, the repeal process could be implemented. But despite all this, the path to repeal has become cluttered in ways that only Washingtonians could rationalize. At the core of this delay seems to be a desire by the Pentagon to kick the can down the road and stop a vote on the issue this year. As Gates asserted 11 days ago in a letter to the House Armed Services Committee, nothing should be done until the implementation study is complete in December. The White House’s silence is providing oxygen to those who believe that Congress should not act this year."

A new GALLUP poll says 70% of Americans approve of allowing gays to serve openly in the military: "Included in the majority are 60 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of weekly churchgoers and strong majorities of liberals and moderates."

LevinSenator Carl Levin said today that, if the votes are there, he's prepared to include repeal of DADT in the Defense Authorization bill, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates' letter of last Friday:

"Gates, however, has told Congress that he would 'strongly oppose' legislating repeal before a Department of Defense review is finished in December. That won't stop Levin, who said today that he'll put repeal in the authorization bill anyway, if he can get the votes for it. He said he's not sure if the votes are there. Even so, he said repeal wouldn't go into effect until after the review is finished. 'What we ought to do is repeal it but make the effective date after the report,' Levin said today, according to Roll Call."

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade talked to several of the veterans who lobbied at the White House yesterday.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Air Force Secretary Supports Repeal of DADT

DonleyAir Force Secretary Michael B. Donley was questioned by Jo Lieberman and Carl Levin during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill today. Donley was asked by Levin his personal opinion on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Air Force's highest ranking civilian gave a gave very surprising and very direct response. He said:

“I support the president’s efforts to change the policy and change the law in this area.” Donley continued and had the following to say about dismissal cases that had passed by his desk in the past: “My experience is that these cases and that the issue of good order and discipline and unit cohesion, is that it does not depend on gender or orientation – it depends on conduct."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz was also questioned but he had something quite different to say. According to Schwartz, “acting (to repeal DADT) now is premature.”


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