Whether Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is taking up the cause of gays in the military stems from her re-election battle against flip-flopper Harold Ford Jr., or because she’s merely dedicated to securing equality for Americans, we’re starting to care less. While the Times‘ calls Gillibrand’s latest move an “apparent effort to court a voting bloc in her home state,” it may also have a material effect: She’s introducing legislation that would nix any money from the Defense Department’s budget dedicated to investigating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell claims. It’s a Band-Aid, and it might be the best you’ll get.
With leaders in both the House and Senate indicated 2010 is not the year for repeal, Gillibrand’s move — which would be an amendment to Defense’s annual spending bill, which is how a full repeal is also expected to get through — represents a middleground. By keeping any money from DADT investigations, the bill would, effectively, halt dismissals.
Expect much opposition from Republicans (and, possibly, other Democrats), who will point to any move to limit Pentagon spending as a slap in the face to those keeping our country safe. Painting a politician as someone unfriendly to the military’s needs is an obvious way to sink a reputation, and Gillibrand should be expecting such a response.
To which she has a great reply: By denying spending, she’d actually be saving the military money. “A report released by the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2006 found that during the first ten years the policy was in place, it cost the Defense Department $364 million,” relays the Times. “A year earlier, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that the military had spent about $200 million on training and recruiting replacements for those who were discharged because of the policy.”
But don’t get too excited about Gillibrand’s bill. In July, she attempted to pass an 18-month moratorium on DADT dismissals, and her Democratic colleagues made her quickly aware they would not lend their support en masse; she dismissed her own effort just days after announcing it.
Meanwhile, Gillibrand’s official announcement of the move arrives tonight, at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual New York-area fundraising dinner, where Gillibrand is the keynote speaker. (Bebe Neuwirth will accept an Ally For Equality award.)