Saturday, December 4, 2010

DADT: Senate Republicans Hold Civil Rights Over A Barrel

Senate Republicans have decided to hold civil rights over a barrel. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that Republicans will not allow a vote on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell until they reach a consensus with Democrats over the Bush tax cuts. Republicans favor extending all of the cuts, which have exacerbated the federal budget deficit. Most Democrats, however, favor allowing the cuts for the highest income owners to expire.

Recently, Senators Scott Brown and Susan Collins, two moderate Republicans, have expressed support for repealing DADT. While Brown's statement does not reference a tax deal, Collins explicitly ties her support for a repeal of DADT to a resolution of the tax issue.

The Republicans are simply engaging in smart political bargaining. Democrats know that the DADT repeal must take place, if at all, before Republicans assume control of the House next year. Republicans are using the DADT issue to gain support for their tax plan.

Good politics, however, also requires parties to frame the terms of the debate. Democrats should continue working on the tax issue, but they should also call out Republicans for threatening civil rights in order to provide handouts to wealthy Americans.

Repealing DADT is a cost-free measure. It is unrelated to tax policy. Repealing DADT will end a policy of irrational and unfair discrimination by the national government. Many Republicans support the ban because they or their constituents oppose equal protection for gays and lesbians. Democrats should not allow their bigotry to go unrecognized in these debates.

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