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Thursday, May 27, 2010
The congressional newspaper Roll Call reported late last night that Ben Nelson (D-Ne.), Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Robert Byrd (D-WVa) have all expressed there support for adding the compromise language to the Defense Authorization Bill during Thursday's mark up of the bill that approves military funding for the next year.
Of the three recent converts, only Byrd gave conditional support. He wants to add an additional 60 days for review of the Pentagon study once it is complete in December. Byrd said in a statement on his website, “I did not want to blindly assent to repealing this law without giving the Congress an opportunity to re-examine the concerns of our Armed Forces and the manner in which they are being addressed.”
Meanwhile, here in Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb got off the fence this week and expressed his opposition to the compromise, saying on Tuesday, "If you look at what the White House said and you look at what Secretary Gates said, they both said they would prefer to go through the process that Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates announced in February. I don't see any reason to preempt that process."
What's missing from all of this is a time table for a halt to dismissals. There is no language providing for a moratorium until DADT is finally repealed and there is no language in the bill requiring a non-discrimination policy for the military. Once the policy is officially done away with, the Pentagon will be responsible for deciding it's own personnel policies.
The major issue for critics of the compromise is that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen are being granted what amounts to veto power. The two men given the task of conducting the Pentagon study on the effects of repeal, along with President Obama must sign off on the legislation before it takes effect, regardless of its passage in both the House and the Senate. This gives what some call unconstitutional authority to the unelected government officials.
What is especially disturbing, but not really surprising, is that representatives from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Servicemembers United were all present during Monday's negotiations and signed off on most, if not all, of the above conditions.
This has the activists at GetEqual threatening a hunger strike until dismissals are ended. There are obviously a lot of details to work out and we have to keep up the pressure on HRC and congress to get to work and hammer all of this out. But let's not forget, that if it doesn't happen now, we may have to wait years before we get another chance at repeal.