The leading House Republican on defense issues last week announced support for legislation that would expand the certification requirement for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and potentially disrupt the process for ending the military’s gay ban.
During a taped interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) backed a bill that would require the military service chiefs to certify that the U.S. military is ready for open service before bringing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to an end.
“I think it makes it a better process,” McKeon said. “I think the way this process was rammed through, it was done politically.”
In December, President Obama signed legislation allowing for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal 60 days after he, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready for open service. The legislation backed by McKeon, sponsored Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), would expand this certification requirement to include the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
In his “Newsmakers” appearance, McKeon reiterated that he believes legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was hastily moved through the Democratic Congress last year.
“I’m not in the military,” McKeon added. “My job is to help protect the military and to see that they have what they need to carry out their missions and to return home safely. If there is something that is going to be a distraction to that, that might put them in a difficult situation, I don’t think we should be doing that. And I’m not sure we fully answered this question.”
With McKeon’s support, the legislation could be made part of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill as part of the chairman’s mark for the legislation or a panel vote when the House Armed Services Committee considers the larger measure. Earlier this month, Hunter told the Washington Blade he’s spoken to McKeon’s staff about having a vote on his bill in committee and is expecting a vote during the markup for the FY2012 budget.
Asked during his “Newsmakers” appearance if he would consider inserting the measure into defense authorization legislation, McKeon reiterated he supported the measure.
But when pressed on whether he would be upset if certification happened before Hunter’s measure could pass the House, McKeon replied, “It’s not going to bother me at all. What I’m concerned about is the troops it may bother. I don’t have a problem with it, other than what it does to our readiness, what it does to our recruitment, what it does to our retention. I don’t think we have really answered those questions.”
Joe Kasper, a Hunter spokesperson, expressed confidence about having support in the House Armed Services Committee for certification expansion, but said questions remain on whether to have a panel vote on the measure or a vote on the House floor.
“There is definitely support within the committee for ensuring the service chiefs are a bigger part of the process, exactly what the Congressman’s bill does,” Kasper said. “The next few months are important to determining the best way to offer the measure, whether it’s through the Committee or an open floor process.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, lambasted McKeon for throwing his support behind a measure that could disrupt “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
“In supporting this turn-the-clock-back move, Congressman McKeon fundamentally disrespects the service chiefs,” Sarvis said. “The chiefs have repeatedly proven themselves to be strong and effective leaders. Indeed, because of their leadership, our military remains the strongest in the world. To assert that the chiefs can’t or won’t stand up for themselves if they have concerns — and to continue to go against their best professional advice to Congress — is a transparent political game.”
Some military service chiefs have said they oppose expanding the certification requirement to include their input and said they feel they have sufficient opportunity to express concerns on the transition to open service with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
In congressional testimony earlier this month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said the Navy opposes expanding the certification requirement beyond what was put in place by the legislation Obama signed last year.
“I am confident my assessment of Navy’s readiness for repeal will be carefully considered during the certification process, and do not believe it is necessary to provide additional or separate input outside of this process,” Roughead said.
Late last year during a hearing before the Senate, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said he didn’t think expanded certification was necessary when Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) asked about the measure.
“I am very comfortable with my ability to provide input to Secretary Gates and to the Chairman that will be listened to and considered,” Casey said. “So you could put it in there, but I don’t think it’s necessary.”
A Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the certification expansion bill could pass the lower chamber of Congress, but expressed skepticism about the measure reaching the president’s desk.
“The House Republicans’ continued assault on equality and national security may succeed in the House,” the aide said. “But their extreme social agenda has less chance of passing the Senate than John Boehner has of not crying during Hallmark commercials.”
How to prepare yourself in this seller’s market
Millennials are putting down the avocado toast and picking up mortgages
For the first time, Millennials are cutting back on spending money on multiple streaming subscriptions, $10 drinks, and avocado toast. They are dipping their feet into purchasing their first home. The current market conditions can be tough for some buyers though, so being prepared is more important now than ever.
The first step in the home buying process is finding the right real estate agent. Your agent should be trustworthy and someone who is knowledgeable about the area, sales contract, and local programs that may be able to save you money. Once you find the perfect agent, ask them to refer you to their preferred local lenders. When talking with lenders, not only should you focus on interest rates, but also ask about their in-house processing and underwriting. This may be able to give you a competitive advantage against other offers.
Once you’ve decided on your lender, they will need several documents to help them determine your eligible purchase price. Now is the perfect time to get your documents in order, including 30 days of pay stubs, two years of tax returns and/or W2s and 1099s, and two consecutive bank statements. Providing these documents in a timely manner can help expedite the pre-approval process and prevent delays once you’re under contract. The lender will also look at your median credit score from the three major credit bureaus. Since your credit score has a direct effect on your interest rate, it’s important to pay close attention to your score. If your credit score needs a little help, talk to your Realtor and lender to see if they have recommendations on how to boost your score or programs that may be able to help.
After you’ve been pre-approved, it’s time to look at properties. With these current market conditions, properties typically don’t stay on the market for very long. Depending on the type of property, some may only be on the market for a few days. Doing your due diligence at the beginning of your home search can help save you time and focus on the properties that really fit your criteria. Now is the time to make that wish list, visit neighborhoods, research schools, and get a really good idea of what you’re looking for. In this market, it’s very important to see a property as soon as it hits the market. By fully understanding your search criteria in advance and making sure you’re available to see properties after work or on a lunch break, you will be better prepared to make an offer when “the one” hits the market.
The most common question I get now is, “should I wait?” In most cases, the cost of waiting can cost you. With historically low interest rates and housing prices continuing to increase, now is still a great time to purchase real estate. Being prepared, patient and having an informed Realtor and lender on your side will definitely help in this market.
Teddy Rojanadit is a licensed Realtor in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland with Bediz Group at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Follow him at @teddydcrealtor on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. He can be reached at [email protected] or 202-664-3736.
The five-step downsizing plan
Set goals and a budget — then de-clutter
Are you considering downsizing? For any number of reasons, this might be a decision that makes sense at this point in your life.
Perhaps you have children that are now grown and have moved out, or you entertained large parties and those days have passed, now having more space than you can use. Maybe you simply want less home to take care of and fewer chores on your to-do list. Perhaps you’d like a smaller mortgage, so you can put the extra money toward other things. Or possibly, you’re willing to pay a slightly higher mortgage so that you can have a smaller home in an area where you’ve always wanted to live. Whatever your reasons, if you’re thinking of downsizing, having a plan can be extremely valuable. Those preparing to downsize may find that following this helpful five-step plan can make the process a smooth and successful experience:
• Think through your goals: This may seem like an obvious step, but it is one that people often overlook. As you think about downsizing, take the time to sit down and come up with a detailed list of your goals. Ask yourself the necessary questions that will help you to narrow and focus your search. These are questions like: What’s important to you in life — being close to family and friends? Living in a place you love? Having easy access to medical care? Access to an international airport? Spend some time thinking through your priorities and desires. How much of a mortgage will you be able to pay, particularly if you are retiring or anticipating increased health care costs as you age? Maybe you’re able to live mortgage free with the sale of your larger home.
How much square footage would you feel comfortable caring for? How will you prepare for the move? Thinking carefully about your future by working through important questions like these can help you move closer toward a concrete vision of your ideal downsizing situation and provide peace of mind and confidence during the process.
• Look for a location you love: Location is an important aspect of any real estate transaction, but this can be especially true when downsizing. What are your reasons for downsizing? Thinking this through may help you to choose a location that is ideal for your needs. Are you downsizing because you are getting older and health issues are a concern? If so, choosing a location close to a city center where you can easily access medical care might be important. Are you downsizing because you’re tired of living in a large home in a suburban area and want easier access to amenities that a more urban environment may offer? If so, looking for more walkable neighborhoods closer to a larger metropolitan area might be important for you. Are you retiring and downsizing because you want to live in that gay-friendly city that you’ve always loved? Focus your home search there.
• Be sure to budget: After you’ve thought through your goals and decided on a desirable location, you’ll want to spend time closely looking at your financial situation and coming up with a realistic budget to achieve your goals. Meeting with a financial professional to review your assets and debts, what you might make from the sale of your current home, and what the total costs of downsizing might be can be tremendously helpful, and can ensure that you make your move with financial confidence and security.
• Don’t forget to declutter: Certainly, downsizing means you’ll have less space – and this means less room for extra stuff. Before your move, take advantage of the downsizing process as an opportunity to let go of items you no longer truly need or use and to make space for new things and experiences. It is important to get started on this process early. Often, when people are downsizing, they still overestimate the amount of room they will have for extra items. Don’t make this mistake. Taking the time to sit down and think about what will fit within your new space removes the stress of later having to dispose of those belongings after you move.
• Find the right agent: The importance of this step in your downsizing plan should not be overlooked. Whether you are staying relatively close to home or moving across the country, you will need an agent who knows the community you’re interested in and can help direct you to neighborhoods and homes that will best fit your needs. This can particularly be true when you are an LGBTQ home buyer or seller and you want to ensure that you find not only a house that you love, but also a community where you can feel truly at home. Working with the right agent can reduce your stress, save time, and greatly increase your overall satisfaction with your real estate experience. Wondering how to find exactly the right agent for your needs? At GayRealEstate.com, that’s where we come in.
Whatever your real estate needs – whether you are looking to buy, sell, upgrade, or downsize, at www.GayRealEstate.com, we are here for you. We are passionate about connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers across the country with agents who are talented, experienced, and committed to helping their clients achieve their real estate dreams. In any real estate experience, having an agent who knows and loves their community and who values each client, and understands that client’s unique needs can be invaluable. We are dedicated to delivering that experience every time. You deserve nothing less. We look forward to helping you soon.
Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].
These two vehicles are perfect for your next adventure
With everyone itching to get out and travel during the big reopening, it’s no wonder roadways are jammed with day-trippers and tourists. But these two vehicles can help you avoid the noise and go on your own excellent adventure.
CHRYSLER PACIFICA PINNACLE
Mpg: 19 city/28 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.9 seconds
Is there such a thing as a fun minivan? You wouldn’t think so. But the Chrysler Pacifica has won numerous awards for its spirited suspension and nimble handling. This hauler is much better at transporting people and cargo than most pickups and SUVs. And this year the Pacifica, already a style maven among minivans, gets a tasteful makeover. This includes a streamlined grille, liftgate, wheels, and front and rear running lights.
For better traction on slippery roads, all-wheel drive is now available. There’s also a new top-tier trim level—the Pinnacle—with quilted Nappa leather seats and (bling alert!) snazzy matching pillows for the second-row captain’s chairs. The infotainment system, already easy to use, now has a crisp 10.1-inch screen, along with smartphone integration and up to 12 USB ports. Because of an improved processor, the infotainment system is more responsive. This was a big plus whenever I approached highway construction zones and needed to find a quick escape route. In the end, I was able to deftly skirt bottlenecks, enjoy a few unfamiliar yet pleasant byways, and still arrive everywhere on time.
Along with a backup camera, there’s a 360-degree view to help you fit into almost any parking spot. And while it may seem a bit creepy, a new FamCam inside the cabin helps you keep an eye on the kids—or any unruly adults—who may be acting up in the backseat. Crash-test scores are stellar, and Chrysler found a way to shoehorn in almost every safety feature, including blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection. No, the Pacifica Pinnacle is not a sport sedan or souped-up super coupe. But it also doesn’t drive like a bulky minivan, despite the acres of interior room and cubbyholes. Instead, I was able to enjoy the best of both worlds—a refreshing ride with plenty of room for passengers and cargo. For neat freaks like me, there was an extra bonus: a built-in vacuum cleaner.
MERCEDES AMG GT 43
Mpg: 20 city/25 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.8 seconds
For auto journalists, test vehicles are like speed dating: Each car is the object of your affection—but only until the next one arrives. Yet sometimes you really do find a soul mate. That’s the case with the Mercedes AMG GT 43. This four-door sedan looks like a hot rod, sounds like a muscle car and drives like a high-performance speedster. Each time I slipped behind the wheel, there was something new and exciting to stir the senses. Cue the silky nine-speed transmission. The subdued ambient lighting. The snug seats that hug you like a lover. And the various driver settings that let you stiffen the suspension to take any corner like a pro.
With the touch of a button, you can ratchet up the exhaust rumble to impress your neighbors. Press another button to raise the large rear spoiler—effectively saying “back off” to anyone clueless enough to tailgate such a ferocious fastback. Even curbside, the haughty look of this ride is intimidating. Inside, there are dual 12.3-inch digital displays and a wide center console with wireless charging pad. Another charging pad is part of an optional rear-seat package, which adds three-zone climate control, heated/cooled rear cupholders, two more USB ports and a rear touchscreen. The new infotainment system offers speech recognition for voice commands and software that actually learns how to anticipate when you might be about to change the nav screen or radio channel. And the clarity of the Burmester surround-sound stereo remains crystal clear even when it’s cranked up to the max. Despite a base price of $91,000, the AMG GT 43 is actually a bargain. After all, the slightly more powerful GT 53 starts at $100,000, and the high-end GT 63 is an eye-popping $162,000. At the end of a weeklong stint with this dream machine, I had fallen hard it—finding any excuse to make an extra Starbucks run or go on a spur-of-the-moment day trip or drive to the grocery store three times in an hour or, well, you get the picture.
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