Don't leave until don't ask don't tell is done
The compromise struck on extending the Bush tax cuts, unemployment insurance and other measures should (hopefully) keep the anemic economic recovery going. Fine. Great. Okay. But I'm more happy the framework for a deal has been achieved because it frees up the legislative calendar to repeal of don't ask don't tell. No one should think of leaving town until that's done. Not Congress. Not the president.
Yesterday, I called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to keep the chamber in session until it acted on the shameful policy, which is part of the larger defense authorization bill known as NDAA. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) endorsed the idea. As did Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who said in a release, "I'm willing to stay through Christmas and New Year's, if that's what it takes" to get work done on NDAA and other issues. By the afternoon, Reid gave a floor speech where he urged his colleagues to "roll up our sleeves - not dig in our heels" in "the final weeks of this year...."
The vagueness of Reid's timetable is noteworthy because he had set Dec. 17 as the Senate's adjournment date. President Obama, scheduled to take off for Christmas vacation in Hawaii on Dec. 18, must tell the Senate he's willing to stick around. He delayed his departure last year to ensure the Senate passed the health-care reform bill. What's at stake in the NDAA is no less important.
Remember, passing NDAA is more than getting rid of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, which only takes up two of the bill's 849 pages. The rest of the measure would give our overstretched troops a pay raise, provide benefits for them and their families and allow the Pentagon to buy the materiel needed to help ensure that the greatest fighting force in the world stays that way, among many other things.
The NDAA is considered a must-pass bill and has been passed for 48 consecutive years. The Senate can't possibly leave Washington without taking action on this vital national security legislation. And the president shouldn't leave town until it is done, either.
| December 7, 2010; 8:10 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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