'Don't ask, don't tell': Now what?!
A California federal judge's order Tuesday that the military stop enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy at all bases worldwide continues a back and forth between federal courts and Congress over the fate of the 17-year old law.
So what happens now? (We've answered this question before, but it's worth doing again.)
Tuesday's order immediately stopped investigations and discharges of openly gay troops -- but didn't kill the law entirely unless the Justice Department declines to appeal the injunction. (That's unlikely, because DOJ continues to appeal rulings on laws that President Obama personally opposes, including the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Government lawyers said Tuesday they plan to appeal a judge's July ruling that DOMA interferes with state definitions of marriage.)
If the government appeals, the case goes to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Justice Department can only appeal the scope of the worldwide injunction, because the 9th previously established a higher legal standard for "Don't ask," requiring the government to prove that gays and lesbians are impacting military readiness. Judge Virginia A. Phillips used that standard in the California case to issue her injunction.
Of course, any and all legal efforts would end if President Obama signs legislation ending the gay ban. That's his preference, and Congressional Democrats have vowed to end the policy this year through the annual defense policy bill.
The House passed its version in May, but a test vote failed last month in the Senate. Democratic aides didn't know Tuesday if/when the Senate will reconsider the bill and include language repealing the law.
The Senate's failure to include repeal language in the bill would make efforts to end the law very difficult next year if Republicans retake the House and/or Senate. Republicans voted en masse against repealing the law in the House and hung together in the Senate to block the bill from moving forward.
But moderate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), have said they're willing to lift the ban if they get an opportunity to review an ongoing Pentagon study of how the military would end the gay ban.
The report is due by Dec. 1, conceivably setting up a tight timetable that would allow the White House, Pentagon and Congress to review the law, have the Senate vote on a defense bill that includes repeal, merge it with the House version, and get it to President Obama's desk before Congress leaves for Christmas. The Pentagon would move forward with ending the ban once Obama signs the legislation.
So will legislation end the law later this year? Or does it face years of legal battles? Stay tuned.
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• Question of the Week: Picking up on something we started Monday -- should federal workers have Columbus Day off? What other person/event deserves to be a federal holiday, if any? E-mail your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and hometown and we may use your answers in Friday's Post.
• Cabinet and Staff News: Hillary Clinton compares her 2008 campaign against President Obama to reconciliation efforts in Bosnia and appears to be sitting out the 2010 midterms. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says U.S. has a "national interest" in Asian sea disputes. Why the GOP is holding up a Federal Reserve nominee. Dick Cheney, back on the road.
• Hearing begins in Fort Hood shootings: Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan returned in a wheelchair and combat fatigues for a pretrial hearing 11 months after he was seen opening fire.
• EPA expected to approve higher blends of ethanol in gasoline: But it's still weighing the use of such blends in older cars and trucks, administration and industry sources said last night.
• Minutes show Fed leaning toward new stimulus: Most Wall Street analysts expect the committee to decide to resume the debt-buying strategy, known as quantitative easing, in which the Fed would buy government debt.
• At FedTalks2010, networking goes high-tech with MingleStick: It's starting to make inroads in the Washington government conference technology world.
• Al-Qaeda affiliate calls for strikes on U.S. targets such as D.C. restaurants: Their publication says using firearms to carry out "a random hit at a crowded restaurant in Washington D.C. at lunch hour for example might end up knocking out a few government employees."
HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT:
• DHS withholds probe into Prince William drunk driver who killed nun: It will not release the results of an investigation into why an illegal immigrant with two drunk driving convictions went almost two years without a deportation hearing before a crash that killed a Virginia nun.
• White House lifts ban on deep-water drilling: Though it remains unclear how quickly oil and gas drilling will resume in the region, the announcement comes well ahead of the Nov. 30 date at which it was originally slated to expire.
• Rand Paul would replace income tax with sales tax: The Kentucky Republican Senate candidate said he supports changing the federal tax code to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service and the federal income tax.
• GOP prods Justice on military vote: A group of Republican lawyers and law students called Tuesday for the Obama administration to do more to ensure that members of the military are able to cast ballots in the Nov. 2 elections.
• NASA contractors want retraction from Justice Dept.: They want Acting Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal to retract statements made last week to the Supreme Court regarding which agency facilities the contractors can access with their identification badges.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:
• Health care costs for vets to soar: In a warning with big implications for future budget debates, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of veterans health care will rise between 45 percent and 70 percent over the next decade.
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