Last week, we noted that Pennsylvania Representative and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy had assumed the role of chief sponsor for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which is the bill that would repeal the longstanding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. At the time, Murphy told his constituents, "I have been speaking out against for many years against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- first as an ROTC cadet, then as a professor at West Point, and later as a candidate and a congressman. To now take the lead on such an important piece of legislation is an honor and a privilege beyond words." Yesterday, in a live comment chat on AMERICAblog, Murphy answered questions, and spoke on the matter in greater detail.
Murphy came ready to outline his approach to getting the MREA passed:
I'm a very aggressive person and we have a multi-tiered plan of attack on this. First, I'm meeting one-on-one with all my colleagues in Congress (especially conservative Democrats and reps in tough districts) on both sides of the aisle. Secondly, we're doing the Voices of Honor Tour going around to hit strategic congressional districts where we can most effect change. If you have an idea for additional places we should visit email me at letthemserve.com. Obviously, I'm working closely with the White House and have been having discussions with the Department of Defense.
It's hard to nail down a firm timeline at the moment, but it's something I want to happen as soon as possible. The key is making sure we have the votes -- 218 -- to pass it. We're getting closer every day. Today we're at 162 and we're not going to quit until we get it done.
Asked why President Barack Obama hadn't done more with his executive authority to repeal the law (for example such as using his stop-loss powers), Murphy defended the president's approach:
I think that this is a really tough issue and there have been a lot of calls for the President to do this. I know I mentioned it before, but the President -- to his credit -- seems not to want to ignore standing law that was passed by the Congress.
We had a saying at West Point "Take the harder right over the easier wrong." The President doesn't want to clearly contradict US law, even though I feel that this law is fundamentally wrong and discriminatory. It shows why Congress needs to change it. We've gotten 16 congressmen and women in the first week to come on board, but we're not stopping until we get the job done. In fact, we just got an additional cosponsor today -- so we're up to 162.
Frankly, as much as I admire the fight in Murphy's belly, I think that when it comes to the elocution of first-order principles for elected officials, Murphy hits this on squarely on the head:
A lot of folks are asking me if this is in the best interests of my political future, especially considering I only won my first election by 0.6%. But too often in Washington people worry about keeping their own seats safe as compared to doing the right thing and bringing about the change our country needs. So in this matter specifically, national security and equality trump political expediency.