Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania officially became the lead sponsor on the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, on Tuesday night, but he's been stepping up efforts to get the bill moving for months.
Murphy has launched a new website, LetThemServe.com , where citizens and soldiers can weigh in on the policy and get updates on the bill. He is also joining forces with the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United on a national tour to discuss the negative effects of the policy with average citizens across the country.
He took time out Tuesday to speak with The Advocate about the road to repeal.
Advocate.com:I know there was some competition for this bill from other members like Susan Davis and Joe Sestak. How did you get the bill? Rep. Patrick Murphy: I was the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress and I saw firsthand how this policy has hurt our military and has hurt our national security and I have the honor of serving on not just the Armed Services Committee but also the [Military] Personnel Subcommittee, which is where, for the first time in 15 years, we held a hearing on the policy last year. I was honored that I'll be able to quarterback this bill and I'm going to see that we get it done and put a bill on the president's desk to repeal it.
But in terms of securing the bill, did you have conversations with former representative Ellen Tauscher [the previous lead sponsor, who vacated her seat to accept a position in the State Department] early on and indicate that you would be interested? I did, and I had a great working relationship with Secretary Tauscher. We worked at that hearing last year and it's something she saw that I care deeply about, and that's when the cameras were on. But behind the scenes, talking to my colleagues in the Congress, on both sides of the aisle as well. And so I think I earned her support and I'm proud to take the lead on this.
What's the next step, the first thing you'll do to get this thing moving?I've been going member to member, especially since I've taken the lead -- we've gotten six new cosponsors on board, two members of leadership last week [representatives John Larson and Xavier Becerra], and we're doing the national kickoff at the National Press Club Tuesday. But I'm also doing a website petition to petition my fellow members of Congress, and we're going to be doing smaller press conferences in congressional districts to let people know why it's important now to change it.
The fact that we've let go over 13,000 troops since it's been implemented and over 65 Arabic translators -- that's over three combat brigades that we've let go. When we're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need every qualified, able-bodied individual to serve.