Political Notebook

As session wanes, House shoos ‘don’t ask’ to Senate

FIGHTING FOR BILL’S REPEAL Barney Frank, one of the House’s few openly gay members, called the battle over gays in the military “bigoted nonsense.” FIGHTING FOR BILL’S REPEAL
Barney Frank, one of the House’s few openly gay members, called the battle over gays in the military “bigoted nonsense.”
Associated Press / December 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — For the second time this year, the House voted to dismantle the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy, giving the Senate a final shot in the waning days of this Congress at changing a law requiring thousands of uniformed gays to hide their sexual identity.

The strong 250-to-175 House vote yesterday propels the issue to the Senate, where supporters of repeal say they have the votes but perhaps not the time to get the bill to the floor. It could be the last chance for some time to end the 1993 law that forbids recruiters from asking about sexual orientation and troops from acknowledging that they are gay.

Democratic leaders in the Senate say they are committed to bringing the bill to the floor before Congress adjourns for the year. But they are challenged by opposition from some Republicans and a daunting agenda that includes finishing work on legislation to fund the government and ratifying a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

No time has been set for a Senate vote on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.’’ Failure to overturn the policy this year could relegate the issue to the back burner next year when Republicans, who are far less supportive of allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military, take over the House and gain strength in the Senate.

President Obama, in a statement last night, said he applauded the House vote. In reiterating his support for ending the ban, he pointed to backing for repeal from the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Moving forward with the repeal is not only the right thing to do, it will also give our military the clarity and certainty it deserves,’’ Obama said.

In May, the House voted 234 to 194 in favor of repeal legislation as part of a larger defense bill. The measure has stalled twice in the Senate, where Republicans have objected to taking up the defense bill laded with contentious issues.

Gaveling the end of the vote was Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, one of the House’s few openly gay members. Frank, in his floor speech, said it was “bigoted nonsense’’ that “the presence of someone like me will so destabilize our brave young men and women that they will be unable to do their duty.’’

Frank’s nine colleagues from Massachusetts, all Democrats, joined him in voting for repeal.

Many Republicans, led by Senator John McCain of Arizona, argue that it would be a mistake for the military to undergo a major cultural change while the nation is fighting two wars.

The House, in introducing the standalone bill, sought to avoid the complications of combining it with a general defense bill. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Joseph Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, also promoted a standalone bill in the Senate.

No sign of Emanuel’s 100 boxes, renter testifies
CHICAGO — The woman whose family is renting Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago home testified yesterday that she has not come across most of the items the mayoral hopeful described leaving behind when he moved to Washington to become White House chief of staff.

Lori Halpin spoke to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners one day after Emanuel appeared in a hearing over the residency challenges to his bid for the city’s top job.

Halpin told a hearing officer that she has never seen any of the 100 boxes or some of the other valuable family possessions that Emanuel has said were left behind, including in a locked area of the home’s basement.

Emanuel testified Tuesday about belongings in his home, including his wife’s wedding dress, clothes his children wore home from the hospital just after they were born, family china, and others, to defend himself against allegations that he forfeited his Chicago residency when he leased his home and moved to Washington.

Halpin acknowledged there are two areas of the house she has not been able to access — an area behind a panel in the attic master bedroom and another behind a panel with hinges behind shelves in the basement.

Emanuel’s lawyers asked Halpin if it was possible that the Emanuel family possessions are located there.

“Anything could be possible, I have no idea,’’ she said.

Halpin and her husband, Rob, refused to move out of Emanuel’s house when he wanted to break their lease and move back in as he ran for mayor. Rob Halpin also filed paperwork to run for mayor but withdrew shortly after.

Emanuel is fighting for a spot on the Feb. 22 ballot to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley.

More than two dozen people have challenged Emanuel’s candidacy, saying he doesn’t meet the requirement that candidates live in the city for a full year before the election. He moved back to Chicago in October after working for nearly two years in Washington.

Emanuel endured nearly 12 hours of questioning from everyone from attorneys to a woman named Queen Sister. A poll released Tuesday night showed Emanuel with an early lead.