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'Don't Ask' repeal votes in Senate committee in question



Supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal are still working to obtain the necessary support — which possibly could be only one more vote — for passage of an amendment during upcoming Senate committee consideration of major defense budget legislation.

Those seeking an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are hoping the compromise measure unveiled earlier this week would enable more support for repealing the law. The issue is expected to come before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday or Thursday during its markup of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

The compromise measure unveiled on Monday by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) would repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute, but only after the Defense Department completes its study on the issue at the end of the year and the president and Pentagon leaders certify that the change wouldn’t undermine military readiness. Additionally, the measure has no non-discrimination language and would return authority on discharges to the Pentagon.

A vote is also expected to take place later this week in the House when the defense budget legislation reaches the floor. Supporters of repeal have said they feel they’re in a good position in this chamber, so the remaining question is whether passage can occur in the Senate committee.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he doesn’t know whether he’ll have the votes for repeal even with the compromise measure.

“I haven’t talked to anybody other than Joe Lieberman about this in the last few days, so I haven’t talked to the people who will be the ones that we need to get it over the top,” he said. “I just haven’t talked to them. I will this afternoon as soon as I leave this press conference.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Tuesday that he thinks the vote in the Senate Armed Services Commitee is “very tight.”

“We’re not there,” he said. “It’s going to turn on one or two votes, so we’ll just have to see. But it’s the time for everybody to be weighing in, including the administration, to be asking senators for the votes.”

But even with the new proposal, Sarvis said he “hasn’t seen” any new votes yet in the Senate committee as a result of the compromise.

“Some senators thought that it would help, and I don’t know that that’s turned out to be the case, but time will tell,” he said. “It may well help far more in the House, but in terms of the Senate Armed Services Commitee so far, we haven’t seen a huge difference.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he thinks supporters of repeal are “closer than ever” in finding votes necessary in the Senate committee for an end to the law.

He said opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have been able in recent days to solidify “at least one or two” more votes that they had been leaning toward voting in favor of repeal, but had not previously expressed an explicit commitment.

“There are a lot of implications that go along with a modifier like ‘soft’ or ‘leaning,'” he said. “Another bombshell like the Gates letter could have torpedoed those votes in that category, and now we got them locked. I don’t think there’s anything that could torpedo those votes and change them back to a ‘no.'”

With 15 votes necessary for a successful vote in the Senate committee, Nicholson said he thinks there are 13 or 14 committed votes in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“I really feel like we’re down to one vote and everyone is trying to go after Ben Nelson and Robert Byrd,” he said. “I am very confident that we will secure the last couple of votes to get this. It appears very likely.”

LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, had lobbied six senators through a grassroots campaign to vote in favor of repeal: Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Two of those votes recently became committed. On Tuesday, Dan McLaughlin, a Bill Nelson spokesperson, told the Blade the Florida senator would vote in favor of repeal. On the same day, Brown said he would vote against the amendment as proposed by Lieberman, according to the Boston Globe.

Ben Nelson has told the Blade he opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal at this time, although it’s unclear whether his position has changed following the announcement of the compromise measure. He told reporters on Tuesday that he’d issue a statement on Wednesday to clarify his position on the matter.

Webb made comments to reporters on Tuesday suggesting he would vote ‘no’ if repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came before him in the Senate, although he didn’t explictly say how he’d vote.

“If you look at what the White House said and if you look at what Secretary Gates said — they both said they would go through the process that Adm. Mullen and Secretary Gates announced in February,” Webb said. “I don’t see any reason to preempt that process.”

Asked to clarify whether his statement means he’ll be voting “no,” Webb said nothing and walked away.

Bayh’s office didn’t response to the Blade’s request to comment on how he’d vote on the issue. Nicholson said he believes Bayh is leaning “yes” and said he thinks he’ll vote in favor of repeal.

Staying mum on the issue is Byrd. In a statement, Jesse Jacobs, a Byrd spokesperson, said the senator “has not taken a position for or against” the compromise measure.

Nicholson said it’s possible that Byrd — the oldest senator on Capitol Hill who often doesn’t appear to vote unless needed — would abstain from voting on the issue.

“I just can’t imagine that Sen. Byrd will go out of his way to vote the wrong way,” Nicholson said. “It’s very likely he’s not going to be there. In order to vote the wrong way, he would have to give a proxy for a ‘no’ vote, and I just can’t imagine him putting himself down the wrong side of history like that and going out of his way to do that.”



FBI, SEC launch investigations into alleged George Santos GoFundMe scam

Embattled N.Y. congressman stepped down from committees on Tuesday



Congressman George Santos (R-N.Y.) (Screen shot via YouTube)

Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations the congressman ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016 by crowdsourcing for a U.S. Navy veteran and his cancer-stricken service dog before absconding with the money.

Politico reported on Wednesday that the veteran, Richard Osthoff, furbished text messages to FBI agents who were working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is reportedly conducting a parallel investigation into Santos’ campaign finances.

The news comes a day after Santos resigned from his two committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) announced on Twitter Wednesday that he filed a complaint against Santos with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission “for violating federal securities law.”

Torres wrote that his GOP colleague “illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi scheme.”

Last month, Torres and fellow U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) filed an FEC complaint against Santos over his alleged violations of campaign finance laws. And over the weekend, the Justice Department reportedly asked the FEC to yield to federal prosecutors — likely a sign that the campaign finance issues are the subject of a criminal probe.

Santos reportedly faces investigations by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has been embroiled in controversy since his arrival to Washington following revelations that nearly every part of his biography and identity were complete fabrications.

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Trump pledges to weaponize fed’l gov’t against trans Americans if reelected

Former president’s anti-trans proposals range from healthcare to education



President Donald Trump (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

Former President Donald Trump promised to weaponize the might of the federal government against transgender Americans if voters send him back to the White House next year.

He detailed the plans in a video shared on the platform Rumble, which is popular among conservative and far-right users.

Some would restore policies enacted during his administration by executive orders that were overturned by President Joe Biden, while other proposals were more extreme or would face an unclear path to implementation because they would require acts of Congress.

Trump began by inveighing against guideline-directed medical care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors — practices that are approved by every major mainstream American and international scientific and medical institution with relevant clinical expertise.

“I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age,” Trump said, promising also to urge Congress to ban certain procedures for minors nationwide.

“I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately,” the former president said, referring again to healthcare interventions whose safety and efficacy has been demonstrated in hundreds of peer reviewed studies in scientific and medical journals.

Trump also said he would create a private right of action allowing for lawsuits against doctors and healthcare providers for administering or facilitating access to treatments for trans and gender non-conforming youth.

“The Department of Justice will investigate big pharma and the big hospital networks to determine whether they have deliberately covered up horrific long term side effects of sex transitions in order to get rich at the expense of vulnerable patients,” Trump said.

The former president then looked beyond healthcare, promising to erase trans people from schools and refuse to recognize them by the U.S. government.

“My Department of Education will inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences including potential civil rights violations for sex discrimination and the elimination of federal funding,” Trump said.

As part of credentialing for America’s teachers, messages promoting “the nuclear family” and child-rearing by “mothers and fathers” would be required, Trump said, adding that he would ask Congress to “pass a bill establishing that the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female and they are assigned at birth.”

“The bill will also make clear,” Trump said, “that Title IX prohibits men from participating in women’s sports and we will protect the rights of parents from being forced to allow their minor child to assume a gender which is new and an identity without the parents’ consent.”

Trump concluded his message with the false assertion that gender dysphoria “was never heard of in all of human history” until “the radical left invented it just a few years ago.”

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George Santos to step down from committee assignments

Embattled gay Republican under pressure to resign



Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) Screen shot via YouTube)

Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) told House GOP colleagues on Tuesday that he will step down from his two committee assignments pending the resolution of investigations and possible law enforcement activity over his alleged financial crimes and violations of campaign finance laws.

Santos, who was appointed to the House Small Business and Science, Space and Technology Committees, neither of which are considered high profile, announced his recusal during a closed-door session following his meeting on Monday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Today’s news marks the first sign that the many scandals with which Santos has been enveloped since his arrival to Washington may have fractured his relationships with and support from House Republican leadership.

Over the weekend, the Justice Department reportedly asked the Federal Election Commission to yield to the federal prosecutors probing Santos’ campaign finance activity, a likely signal that a criminal investigation is underway.

Santos is also the subject of a complaint filed to the House Ethics Committee as well as parallel investigations conducted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The congressman has faced calls to resign, including from members of his own party, since it was revealed last month that he had fabricated virtually every part of his identity and biography.

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