Eye Opener: Repeal 'don't ask' now or wait?
Happy Thursday! Senate Democrats are taking steps that could eventually lead to a vote on repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against the wishes of Pentagon leaders and Republican lawmakers who want the military to finish a review of the policy before a vote.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Tuesday unveiled a new bill backed by several liberal senators that would repeal the ban on openly gay people from serving in uniform and ensure current and potential service members are not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
The bill could be taken up as part of the annual defense authorization bill in May, according to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
"Gays are serving successfully in our military right now -- this legislation would allow them to serve with integrity," Levin said.
But the Pentagon urged patience on Tuesday -- essentially saying that yes, Congress will eventually repeal the policy, but that lawmakers should wait for the military to complete its study of how a repeal might impact the force.
"We need to know more than we know now about what the potential impact would be," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday. "And we need to be armed with that information so that we could work with the Congress to help inform the process that they undertake, if they undertake it."
Testifying before a House subcommittee on military personnel, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson, who is leading the review, also urged lawmakers to wait. "Our work would not just be relevant to implementing any regulations, but it may be relevant to how you legislate the approach," he said.
Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said he hopes the Pentagon assessment addresses the potential impact on military readiness, cohesion, morale and discipline. "If the study does not address these issues, then its overall credibility and usefulness for the congressional decision-making process will be significantly undermined," Wilson said.
The subcommittee's leader, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), seemed to scoff at suggestions they wait: "I would ask those who oppose repeal to join us on the right side of history," she said.
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• Question of the Week: How long did it take you to get hired by the federal government? Or, if you’re applying, how long has it taken for you to get a response to your application? What would be your recommendation for changing the federal hiring process? E-mail your answers to email@example.com and please include your full name, hometown and federal agency.
• (Current and former) Cabinet and Staff News: A magazine ranks the top five Cabinet secretaries. Karl Rove blames himself for the Bush administration's response to the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Kennedy Center board elects David Rubenstein as its new chairman. "Burrowing in" by political appointees is rare. A top aide to Timothy Geithner is leaving. Geithner meets with President Obama and Vice President Biden later today in the Oval Office. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announces the first round of winners in the "Race to The Top" competition.
• Veterinarian to detail slaughterhouse breaches: Officials failed to act on reports of illegal and unsafe slaughterhouse practices, letting suspect operations continue despite public health risks, a USDA veterinarian alleges in testimony to be aired today at a congressional hearing.
• Retiree wants to work for Census, but not for free: A reader wants to know whether federal retirees will be exempt from the windfall cut to pay if they take a temporary Census job.
• Census jobs unfilled in some places: The agency is having trouble finding qualified temporary workers in some neighborhoods for the national head count despite the record number of jobless who have swelled the nationwide pool of applicants.
• Democratic senators say stimulus is aiding clean-energy jobs overseas: The Obama administration and wind-energy advocates strongly disputed the criticism by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and three other Democrats, saying that most of the jobs under the program have been created in the United States.
• FAA suspends controller, supervisor after boy directs flights from JFK tower: The agency also suspended all unofficial visits to air traffic control towers pending an investigation of the incident.
• FDA enforcing truth-in-advertising claims with 17 food companies: The agency sent warning letters to the companies -- including Gerber and Nestle -- and gave them 15 days to respond with an explanation of how they intend to correct labels.
• Rep. Chaffetz proposes firing federal workers who are tax cheats: He doesn’t say how they might pay that debt after losing their jobs. The legislation also would block the federal hiring of applicants who are seriously behind on their taxes.
• Mikulski calls OPM retirement system 'scandalously wasteful': Sometimes, it seems that OPM won't get the federal retirement system fixed until the crawfish whistles on the mountain, as the Russians like to say.
• Common mistakes in applying for federal jobs: What is the single biggest mistake federal job seekers make, and what is the one thing that all successful federal job seekers have in common?
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
• New pressure to get a Customs commissioner: The Obama administration deserves some blame for the delay since it waited until September to make a pick.
• U.S. backs international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna: Sushi aficionados in Japan and elsewhere have consumed bluefin for decades, a demand that has caused its population to plummet.
• Conservatives raise ruckus over Justice appointees' prior work with detainees: Conservatives unhappy with the decision to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have trained their fire on an unusual target: political appointees in the Obama Justice Department who represented detainees earlier in their careers.
• Arms control bureaus to undergo a reshuffle: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to roll back changes made during George W. Bush's presidency that led many top staffers to leave the agency.
• Gov't still hearing complaints about fixed Toyotas: The complaints raise new questions about whether the company's remedy will solve the problem.
NASA chief Bolden seeks 'Plan B' for the space agency: He's asked senior managers to draw up an alternate plan for the future after lawmakers indicated they wanted to reject a White House proposal to hire private companies to ferry U.S. astronauts into orbit and beyond.
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
• Technology could deliver USPS from debt: What took 70 employees one hour to sort 35,000 letters, today two employees sort that same volume of letters.
• U.S. Postal Service to test a repurposed electric vehicle fleet: Starting this summer, the agency will begin a year-long pilot program in the Washington area, using vehicles converted by five manufacturers.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:
• Northern Virginia Community College veterans await benefits: More than 100 military veterans have yet to receive their GI Bill benefits for study and living expenses because of a backlog at the school's Alexandria campus, according to its provost.
| March 4, 2010; 6:10 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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