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Who Will Take the Lead
on DADT?

Who Will Take the Lead
on DADT?


The chief sponsor of the legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," Rep. Ellen Tauscher, announced she will be resigning her congressional seat to take a State Department post, leaving the bill in flux.

The chief sponsor of the legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," Rep. Ellen Tauscher (pictured), announced Wednesday that she will be resigning her congressional seat to take a post at the State Department, leaving the bill in flux.

LGBT activists immediately began floating the names of people who might make a good choice to take over sponsorship of the bill, but Larry Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the first consideration is really how long her confirmation will take.

"As we've seen, it takes a long time," he says, adding that the process of vetting and confirming Obama administration nominees has "sort of ground to a halt" after some of the initial issues with people's tax returns.

A spokesperson at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that lobbies to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military, said the organization was "in the process of looking at several strong champions in the House who can step in and take the lead," but they declined to name names.

Rep. Susan Davis of California has turned up as a person of interest among some Washington insiders. Davis chairs the Military Personnel Subcommittee, where the bill is currently being held -- the same post once held by the Military Readiness Enhancement Act's original sponsor, former Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts.

"Congresswoman Davis is probably the strongest and most logical choice to shepherd the bill on the House side," says Steve Ralls, who worked on the issue for eight years at SLDN. "She has enormous credibility with the armed forces, and she is someone that military leaders in her district and across the country look to to lead on issues like this in the Congress."

Korb suggested that someone like Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania might also make a good choice. "If you have someone like Congressman Murphy, who has a lot of military experience and is an Iraq veteran -- someone who can say, 'Look, I was out there in the field and this was not an issue,' -- that's what you would like to see." Murphy made a particularly strong showing of support for repeal of the policy during the first hearings on the issue hosted by Representative Tauscher last year, but he was elected in 2006 and is still relatively new to Congress.

Perhaps an even greater wild-card question is who's going to carry the bill in the Senate. The Boston Globe reported last month that Sen. Edward Kennedy planned on sponsoring the bill and was looking for a Republican cosponsor before introducing it. Though Kennedy sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has long been a champion of LGBT equality, it's not clear how his ailing health might affect his leadership on this issue. Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after suffering seizures last spring.

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