The U.S. Senate today is scheduled to make a key procedural vote on the defense authorization bill, legislation that primarily releases resources for the military and that has been passed 48 years in a row. This year is different. Republicans are threatening a filibuster that would keep the bill from the floor because Democrats attached controversial provisions, including a repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy on gay soldiers and immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship that includes military service for people brought into the country as children and who are growing up as defacto Americans.
Colorado Senator Mark Udall in March introduced the legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which he believes is unfair as well as a vast waste of time, money and human resources. The vote is scheduled for this afternoon.
“Senator Udall strongly believes we need a debate on the bill and he is working hard to make sure that happens,” Udall Spokesperson Jennifer Talhelm told the Colorado Independent.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet also supports repeal. Bennet Republican campaign rival Ken Buck opposes repeal and said that the military should be kept as homogeneous as possible for reasons of morale and effectiveness and that security is the issue to be concerned about not “lifestyle choices.”
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is “hopeful” the bill will make it to the floor and that he plans to proceed with the bill this week either way. As has been the case with so many bills over the past year and a half, Democratic hopes are pinned to Maine’s moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Some Republicans have suggested the repeal of DADT smacks of social engineering and for that reason has no place in vital national security legislation. Others simply object to the politics Democrats are playing by attaching these controversial provisions to the normally uncontroversial defense bill.
Gay soldiers serve openly in many other countries. The military is currently conducting a study on how best to repeal DADT but there is no time line attached to that effort.
“More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade,” Udall said about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell this spring. “These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”
Government accountants have estimated that the policy has cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation in legal fees, investigations and discharges.
“We train these men and women and prepare them for duty,” Udall said. “It’s a major investment in time and energy and money. Then we spend all this time and energy and money discharging them.”
[Image: Mark Udall ]