December 13, 2010
By Adam Bink
Paul Rieckhoff, who serves as Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, penned a sharply-worded piece late last night at Huffington Post on the failure of the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I don’t agree with everything he writes, particularly on the issue of blame, but after he does a great job going through what is at stake if the Senate fails to pass important provisions for the military, I want to highlight this section and the last two paragraphs (bolding mine):
So if the obstructionists get their way, and Reid and the President fail to galvanize a clear path around them to passage, personal politics and Congressional incompetence will prevent troops from getting the lifesaving support they need from Washington for the first time in 48 years. And that would be an embarrassing precedent to set.
At a time when we have nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, 50,000 in Iraq and over 2 million vets back home, passing this legislation should be a no-brainer for Washington – especially if you see the full picture.
And yes, they’re all to blame – both parties did their part to ensure legislative mutual annihilation. And that is why there is such growing anger at all things Washington and a hunger for independent leaders like Mayor Bloomberg. The American people should not let the politicians get away with pointing fingers all around this time. Everyone did not screw this up equally. Leaders get the credit; leaders deserve the blame. And the American people should not let either party spin us into thinking otherwise.
The President, Senator Majority Leader Reid and Senator McConnell should all be held accountable. If NDAA and all this other critical legislation is not passed before the end of 2010, it won’t be by accident. It’s takes significant effort (or enormous incompetence) to get this little done for this long. And it will indeed be a failure of epic proportions.
So if you’ve never called your Senator before in your life, this would be a good time to start. Tell them to step up and get something – anything – done for the American people. And don’t let them spin you or bury you with finger pointing and excuses. Tell them you don’t care if they want a holiday break. They don’t deserve one.
They should stay until the work is done. Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are waiting for this support. Lives literally depend on it. And if our troops can work over the holidays, so can our Senators. If they don’t, their legacy is simple: #SenateFail.
Paul’s right- it would be a good time to start. It would also be a good time to ask friends, family, and colleagues to start. The target list, unchanged as of Friday, is below:
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): 202-224-6665 (supports repeal, but mixed signals on the stand-alone bill)
George Voinovich (R-OH): 202-224-3353 (no position)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME): 202-224-5344 (no position)
Richard Lugar (R-IN): 202-224-4814 (no position)
Judd Gregg (R-NH): 202-224-3324 (no position)
Scott Brown (R-MA): 202-224-4543 (supports repeal, but has not made a position clear yet on the stand-alone bill)
Kit Bond (R-MO): 202-224-5721 (no position)
Mark Kirk (R-IL): 202-224-2854 (no position)
Joe Manchin (D-WV): 202-224-3954 (no position, but mixed signals on repeal)
Please keep making those calls, ask the Senator to support the Lieberman/Collins stand-alone bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and if the Senator has yet a position on the bill. Then, report what you heard at http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/DADTreport, and in the comments. This public “wiki” count makes it useful so we can follow up with Senators and revise our target list.
One other thing- I spent the weekend at Rootscamp, a great conference for progressive online and offline organizers. A lot of folks came up and asked me what the chances are that the Lieberman/Collins stand-alone bill would make it to the President’s desk by January 5th, so I spent a good part of the weekend thinking about the biggest obstacles and how to overcome them. More on them all later, but one of the biggest, if not the biggest, is the Senate calendar.
The Senate is currently scheduled to adjourn on Friday. The tax legislation that has been clogging everything up because of Republican intransigence is scheduled for a test cloture vote this afternoon (although I don’t think we will be out of the weeds yet on that). Also on the agenda is trying to push a new START treaty on arms reduction, along with the NDAA and a number of other bills that have a shot at passage once tax legislation is cleared.
So clearly, the calendar is an obstacle. This needs to be done before January 5th, when the next Congress will convene. As I argued here, Congress voted on health care legislation in the early morning hours of December 24th, 2009- and that, at a bare minimum, should be expected of this Congress, particularly because of the #SenateFail to get much of anything done, as Paul describes it using a Twitter reference, in the last few months. And if the President calls this legislation a priority for his Administration enough to mention it in the State of the Union, make calls to swing Senators, and have his Administration’s key officials work to advocate on behalf of it, I would hope the President calls on Congress to stay and get the job done- through January 5th if necessary. And holding another vote that the Majority Leader expects to fail isn’t enough- until both sides are at complete loggerheads, keep at it. The Senate should complete the tax legislation as quickly as possible, then stay to get as much done as possible on everything else- with repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and defense funding at the top of the priority list.
If our troops, gay or straight, can work over the holidays, as can many of you reading, then so should our elected officials. The American people deserve nothing less. We’re doing our job by making calls (don’t forget that the target list is above). The Senate leadership should keep the body in session to do its job.