We shouldn’t let today pass without some cheers and shouts of joy. The Congress passed, and this morning the President signed, the repeal of DADT. (Good riddance to rotten policy.) But our cheers shouldn’t stop there, although it is a huge win not only for gay soldiers but also for all Americans who still care about fundamental justice and equality. There were other wins, too.
In these closing hours of this lame duck session of Congress, the Senate also passed the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia and, also, health care for the 9/11 first responders, many of whom are suffering fatal illnesses from breathing the toxic fumes from the burning twin towers. We’ve had to endure some of the most extraordinary nonsense from foot-dragging GOP Senators who really didn’t want to give Democrats and Obama any wins to carry them to 2012.
The wonder to me is that the media has given the negative, often whining, GOPers so much news coverage. However, the more the negative Senators spoke, the more the media was forced to air background information. And so, one by one, individual GOPers peeled away from the solid phalanx of “No” that Chairman McConnell and colleagues had constructed.
The current legislative session has had some heros and we should mention them. But first, let’s not forget Comedy Central's Jon Stewart who devoted his final show of 2010 to the first responders’ health care. Yes, it was touching. At times it was funny. Yes, it was pointed. But most of all, it was extraordinary television. Stewart called out the major networks for not even mentioning the issue in their news coverage. [Here] (After the airing of his show, this changed. The networks got on to the story.) If you have not yet seen the Stewart interview of the four dying first responders, take the time now to view the clip. [Here] It is an extraordinary moment that you won’t forget.
Yet, even after this, our NY Senators Gillibrand and Schumer had to fight night and day to rework the bill so that enough GOPers could be persuaded to vote for it. They even found new tax money (from foreign business) to pay for the coverage. One by one, Republican Senators were persuaded. I hope that these GOPers now feel as happy as Senators Lieberman and Collins looked after they had cajoled fellow Senators to repeal DADT.
As the folks in the White House and the President take victory laps for the legislative wins in Congress, there are some other folks that we should not forget. First, is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who had just been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. Yet, he came to the Senate on Saturday to vote for repeal of DADT. He was operated on Monday. Then, looking thin and pale, nevertheless was back to vote with his colleagues on Wednesday with Chuck Schumer by his side. [Here]
Second, in all of the attention the Senate has gotten, do not let us forget the work of the House, under the leadership of the remarkable, able, skillful and politically astute Nancy Pelosi, who held her caucus together and it delivered again and again, while the Senate dithered and delayed. Congratulations, Madam Speaker.
Third, we must congratulate the work that our New York Senators have done for the first responders and for the repeal of DADT. Within hours of passage of these two bills, Gillibrand’s staff had sent out emails announcing the news and thanking her constituents for our support. This is perhaps a small thing but it suggests that Gillibrand has assembled a very effective and able staff. Congratulations.
Finally, some days ago we talked about Harry Reid keeping Lt. Dan Choi’s West Point ring as a talisman until DADT was repealed. Here is a video of Reid returning the ring to Dan Choi.
Warning: have some kleenex handy...