View From the Hill: Legislatively Speaking
BY Kerry Eleveld
July 10 2009 12:00 AM ET
Assuming the Senate musters the votes to pass DOD reauthorization, the real question will be whether the bill stays intact when it has to be reconciled with the House's version of reauthorization.
And speaking of Defense, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal "don't ask, don't tell," finally got a boost this week when Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania officially became the House lead and launched a national speaking tour in key congressional districts with the Human Rights Campaign.
Murphy, the first Iraq war vet elected to Congress, is wholeheartedly committed to repeal and has laser-beam focus. When I tried to ask him about stopping discharges through an executive order, he reminded me that he can't sign an executive order and added, "but what I can do is put a bill on the president's desk."
The Senate repeal bill is still MIA, but Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, among other things, that if the House moves on the bill, the Senate will too. Rep. Barney Frank a couple weeks ago reiterated his contention that a vote wouldn't be taken on MREA until next year, and Murphy said passing the bill would take "months and months of due diligence." Looks like next year's a good bet. But House Armed Services Committee chair Ike Skelton has agreed to hold full committee hearings this year, so as Murphy said, "the winds of change are in the air."
The Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, which would extend health and survivor benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers, had a hearing this week. This sleeper bill got a huge boost when President Obama endorsed it during the Oval Office signing ceremony (it didn't hurt that mainstream Americans kept wondering "which benefits" same-sex couples were getting from the presidential memo if health benefits weren't included). The buzz on the Hill is that there may be room in the House schedule to take a vote on DPBO as early as this fall, which would kick it over to the Senate.