3

Boxer, DiFi co-sponsor DADT repeal

Both of California’s U.S. Senators are among the 14 original co-sponsors of a bill to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring military service by gays and lesbians who don’t agree to hide their sexual orientation.

The “Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010” was introduced today by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., among the co-sponsors.

“The time has come to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ It is the right thing to do. Every American should have the opportunity to serve their country, regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation,” Feinstein said in a news release. “The criteria for serving one’s country should be competence, courage and willingness to serve. When we deny people the chance to serve because of their sexual orientation, we deprive them of their rights of citizenship, and we deprive our armed forces the service of willing and capable Americans.”

Boxer, in Lieberman’s news release, said she looks forward “to ending the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy as soon as possible. We cannot afford to lose the service of dedicated and honorable military personnel, which is happening right now.”

The bill would prohibit the U.S. armed forces from discriminating based on sexual orientation; repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, enacted in 1993; create a federal law preventing discrimination against current and prospective members of the armed forces based on sexual orientation; direct the Pentagon Working Group, established by the Secretary of Defense and led by military leaders, to conduct a thorough study and recommend regulations to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” and require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress within 180 days of the bill’s enactment on what actions have been taken to deny federal funds to any university that prevents establishment of an ROTC unit on campus.

Feinstein’s office says that about 13,000 U.S. service members have been discharged from the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy since 1993; the Government Accountability Office estimates it has cost taxpayers more than $200 million to recruit and train replacements. Among those now supporting the policy’s repeal are Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; and retired Secretary of State and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell.

4

Boxer: GOP boycott won’t stop climate-change bill

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is moving ahead with her cap-and-trade climate change bill despite Republican threats to boycott next Tuesday’s mark-up session.

“That won’t stop us. We’re going to use every tool at our disposal to get that done,” she said this afternoon during a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee Co. on Webster Street near Oakland’s Jack London Square, at which she was touting her efforts to support small businesses through the economic downturn. Asked to elucidate on “every tool at our disposal,” she replied, “We’ll use the rules of the committee.”

“We are going to sit down on Tuesday, we’re ready to go, we’re not canceling it,” she said “I’m still hoping the Republicans will come to the committee room and do their work.”

Boxer said she can’t imagine why anyone with a chance to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, combat climate change and create jobs all at the same time would boycott such an opportunity, going “absent without leave, AWOL” at a moment so vital to the nation’s interests. She urged the committee’s Republican members to “try to work with us, let’s try to get something done.”

Part of the small-business support scheme of which Boxer spoke today was affordable health care, which she said absolutely must contain a public option. U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., this week said he’ll refuse to caucus with Senate Democrats to break a filibuster on any health care reform legislation containing a public option.

Boxer in 2006 was among Senate Democrats who went to Connecticut to stump for Lieberman in the Democratic primary – angering many of her more liberal constituents, given his support of the Iraq war and other stances – though she later supported Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in that year’s general election. And Senate Democrats have been kind to Lieberman since, including letting him keep his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in hopes he would caucus with them on vital votes such as this.

Asked today what she thought of Lieberman’s health care stance, Boxer replied she “can’t answer for him, I just want to say that we have to get this (health care reform) done.”

“All of our colleagues will be making important decisions, but at the end of the day, we can do this with a majority, not a super-majority,” she said, making it clear she was speaking for herself and not for Senate Democratic leaders.

Democrats would need 60 votes for cloture to overcome a Republican filibuster and bring a health-care bill to the floor for a final vote, but there’s been talk that they might use a procedure called “budget reconciliation” to move the bill through with just 50 votes.

0

How California’s Senators voted on Lieberman

The U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus voted 42-13 today to let U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, despite his having been at odds with the caucus for years on Iraq and other matters, and despite his having repeatedly smack-talked President-elect Barack Obama while stumping for Republican presidential nominee John McCain this past year.

The liberal blogosphere is beside itself with rage — see here, here, here and here — generally calling Senate Democrats a bunch of wusses for failing to hold Lieberman to account for kicking sand in their collective face for the past few years. My favorite bit of bone-dry derision comes from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, offering this breaking news: “Lieberman expelled from Pilates class in Senate gym.”

But even though Obama himself reportedly supported Lieberman, it seems U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was among those voting against him today. “The resolution did not reflect Senator Boxer’s belief that Senator Lieberman should remain in the caucus but not retain his full Committee Chairmanship, and she voted accordingly,” Natalie Ravitz, Boxer’s communications director, told me today.

Boxer was among several Senators who had stumped for Lieberman in the 2006 primary – incurring some of her constituents’ wrath, since she’s been so staunchly against the war and Lieberman thought it was a good idea – but then supported Democrat Ned Lamont in the 2006 general election as Lieberman successful ran as an independent. I guess BaBo’s truly done with ol’ Joe now.

As for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., communications director Gil Duran noted “the vote was by secret ballot,” but pointed me to what DiFi told reporters after the vote.

“What we’re trying to do today is bring about reconciliation, not only within our caucus, but between Democrats and Republicans. We are trying to develop a more civil dialogue and hopefully get more done on behalf of the American people,” she said. “The jury’s out whether that’ll happen or not, but the resolution that was presented in the caucus did pass. Senator Lieberman will remain a member of the caucus and will retain his chairmanship. My hope is that he becomes a Democrat again.”

Make of that what you will, dear readers.

1

Boxer mum on what should happen to Lieberman

With Democrats having widened their U.S. Senate majority this week, the political fate of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., is up in the air.

Lieberman, you’ll recall, lost his state’s 2006 Democratic primary to a more progressive challenger, Ned Lamont, whose victory was attributed in large part to Lieberman’s support of the Iraq war. But Lieberman ran in the 2006 general election as an independent, and kept his seat.

This put Democrats in something of a bind – they needed Lieberman, along with Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, to hold onto their 51-49 Senate majority. So Lieberman, who agreed to keep caucusing with the Democrats on most matters, was allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But since then, Lieberman endorsed John McCain in this presidential election; spoke at the Republican National Convention; and trash-talked Barack Obama on several occasions. Now that Democrats don’t need his help to keep control of the Senate anymore, the calls for his political head are mounting – see here, here and here.

Rumor has it Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Lieberman yesterday the price of his remaining in the caucus would be relinquishing his committee chair. Lieberman reportedly balked, perhaps hoping to convince the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee – which helps guide the caucus’ decision-making on committee chairmanships – that he should keep his post.

And that brings us right here to California, for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is a Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee member.

Boxer was among several Senators who stumped for Lieberman in the 2006 primary – incurring some of her constituents’ wrath, since she’s been so staunchly against the war and Lieberman thought it was a good idea – but then supported Lamont in the 2006 general election. Now, it seems, Boxer may once again have a role to play in Lieberman’s fate.

I asked Boxer’s spokespeople today what she believes should be done about Lieberman, and whether her office has been receiving phone calls on this issue. “Senator Boxer feels that what Sen. Lieberman did was extremely hurtful, but beyond that, we aren’t going to comment at this time,” communications director Natalie Ravitz replied.

0

The week in review

Lots goin’ on this past week, so I thought maybe we could recap some of the highlights…

We saw Bill Clinton in Oakland trying to mobilize a mostly-minority crowd for Hillary, and we saw Barack Obama in San Francisco trying to mobilize women.

We saw Tom Lantos endorse Jackie Speier to succeed him, and we saw Leland Yee promptly declare he’s not running — but wait, here comes Yul Kwon, a San Mateo management consultant who won the $1 million prize on “Survivor: Cook Islands” in 2006, reportedly considering a run. He’s a former aide to U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. — which quite frankly might be more hinderance than help in Lantos’ district.

We saw Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorse Proposition 93, which would lower the total number of years a state legislator could serve from 14 to 12, but would let him or her divide those years between the houses as they choose — and would grandfather current officeholders so people like Don Perata and Fabian Nunez could serve another term. The governor’s own party this week called Proposition “a self-serving measure, authored by a small group of state legislators seeking to extend their terms in office beyond the limits set by voters in Proposition 140.”

We saw the Green Party hold a presidential debate in San Francisco, with former George Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney a clear front-runner.

And we saw Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums give a passionate State of the City Address… but it’s not his passion with which some disgruntled residents are taking issue.