Last night’s votes reveal priorities

Hoosier Representatives Andre Carson, Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, and Pete Visclosky all earned the gratitude of their fellow Hoosiers for voting to include the Murphy amendment in this year’s defense spending bill. As you probably know, the amendment instructs the Department of Defense to end the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the armed services, pending the outcome of a Pentagon review. Democrat Joe Donnelly joined with the remaining Republican delegation (Buyer, Pence, and Burton) to continue excluding gay and lesbian Americans from the service.

Here’s the House version of the amendment, which passed 234-194:

An amendment numbered 79 printed in House Report 111-498 to repeal Dont Ask Dont Tell only after: (1) receipt of the recommendations of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement a repeal of DADT (due December 1, 2010) and (2) a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is first, consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion & recruiting, and second, that the DoD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement its repeal. It would also include a 60 day period after certification before the repeal took effect.

And lest you think there’s some principle at play in the GOP opposition to the bill, here’s Steve Buyer ignoring all the evidence:

"It is very clear that homosexuality is incompatible with military service."

In contrast, Rep. Andre Carson released a statement that included this:

"Any patriotic American willing to give his or her life in defense of country should have that opportunity. And our troops should never be forced to lie about who they are in order to continue their service. Today’s vote will help ensure this kind of personal conflict is never an issue for the brave men and women in our military."

Last night, Congress decided that discriminating to please Steve Buyer wasn’t important enough to jeopardize our national security. And 5 Republicans defied GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence to support repeal.

The fight against DADT isn’t over, but this looks like the beginning of the end. The Senate still has to vote on the final bill – although the Armed Services Committee, including Indiana’s Senator Evan Byah, voted to repeal DADT.

But while the DADT vote is getting all the attention, I was intrigued by a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Gutierrez, which would give the Secretary of Defense the power to review (and end) contracts with BP and their subsidiaries if they are deemed to no longer be a “responsible source”. Reps. Carson, Donnelly, Ellsworth, Hill voted for this amendment. The GOP delegation (joined by Rep. Visclosky) voted against giving the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon the power to review BP’s contracts.

The Guitierrez amendment passed easily (372-52), but it’s striking to me that all of the Hoosier delegation just last year voted to strip ACORN of any federal contracts despite a lack of any wrongdoing by the group.

So according to Mike Pence, Steve Buyer, and Dan Burton, helping families deal with the foreclosure crisis while being the victims of a badly-edited piece of manufactured conservative outrage means that you don’t deserve any federal contracts – even if a law to that effect might be unconstitutional. On the other hand, if you’re responsible for untold economic and environmental devastation and the deaths of 11 workers, we can’t even look into your contracts if the Defense Department deems that BP is no longer a responsible source.

These GOP congressmen are willing to risk our national security to eject service members from the military because they don’t like them, and they’re willing to risk our security to maintain contracts with a supplier that may be irresponsible. And just a few days before Memorial Day, no less.

These two votes, taken together, show a clear picture of our delegation’s priorities. In the cases of Pence, Buyer, and Burton, it’s clear they’re willing to put just about anything ahead of Hoosier troops, and they’re willing to put their ideology ahead of the Hoosier values of responsibility, fair play and equality under the law.