Tag Archives: filibuster

Trump’s Supreme Court pick blasted by LGBT and choice advocates

Donald Trump promised his Supreme Court picks would be cast in the mold of Antonin Scalia, and he delivered, according to legal experts.

He also delivered a blow to liberals and centrists who had hoped that Trump would make an ideologically neutral choice.

Trump announced this evening that he’d chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. According to initial reports, the Trump administration believes he has a sterling legal reputation that will make it harder for Senate Democrats to mount a filibuster to block him, as many have promised they would.

Democrats are angry because Republicans blocked Barack Obama’s pick for the court, Merrick Garland, from even receiving a hearing. Like Gorsuch, Garland has an impeccable reputation among legal scholars.

But Republicans left the court short of a judge for an entire year in the hope that they’d win the presidency and have the chance to pick a conservative judge to maintain the court’s rightward tilt.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Garland is a centrist, but Gorsuch follows a strict or originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution, just as Scalia did. According to that philosophy, the Constitution is a document that is frozen in the time it was written. Originalists take the same approach to the Constitution that religious fundamentalists take to the Bible. They fail to allow for the many changes in society that have occurred since the document was first drafted in 1787.

Immediately following Trump’s choice, the Democratic National Committee released a statement noting that Gorsuch has “a legal history that shows a deep sympathy for corporate interests and an apparent disdain for workers.”
As an attorney, Judge Gorsuch routinely represented big businesses in class action lawsuits,” the statement said. “He upheld a decision that denied long-term insurance benefits to a worker who sustained a work-related injury that required spinal surgery. He even dissented from a ruling in favor of a truck driver whose employer illegally fired him for abandoning a trailer with locked brakes — so he wouldn’t freeze to death.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin issued a statement blasting Gorsuch as too far out of the mainstream.

“With this Supreme Court nomination, President Trump has made it clear he has no interest in being a president for all Americans and that he is intent on creating more division in our country,” she said. “Instead of putting forward a mainstream nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, he has offered someone who will have a hard time earning bipartisan support.”

Gorsuch’s rulings have revealed him to be a jurist who opposes government interference in American life, particularly in matters such as regulation and religion. For instance, he sided in favor of “religious freedom” in the imprtant Hobby Lobby case, ruling that the retail chain’s “Christian” values allowed them to ignore the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees, according to National Public Radio.

That sort of mindset will be of grave concern to LGBT citizens at a time when far-right lawmakers are pushing so-called “religious freedom” bills that permit discrimination in the name of religious beliefs.

Although Gorsuch’s views on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy are scant, he published a book in 2006 titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The book defended the “intrinsic value” of human life in arguing against the practice.

Trump had promised to select anti-choice judges, although the most fervent opponents of reproductive freedom might find his scant (as far as we now know) judicial record in this area alarming.

On their part, advocates of choice are extremely alarmed at Trump’s choice.

“A justice who does not understand what it is like to face an unintended pregnancy, or what it is like to lose an intended pregnancy, threatens the health and safety of women across this country. We should not accept a nominee who believes that the state can place medically unnecessary barriers in the path of women seeking access to safe, legal abortion services,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in a prepared statement.

For Republicans to survive a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, they’d need eight Democrats to join them in order to get the 60 votes needed. At least one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has said he would not join a filibuster.

But Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon circulated a petition yesterday urging his colleagues to block any Trump nominee due to the way Republicans ignored Garland.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley told Politico. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”


McCain vows GOP will not approve any Clinton Supreme Court nominee

Sen. John McCain pledged Monday that Republicans will unite against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton puts forward if she becomes president, forecasting obstruction that would undermine the Constitution, tie Capitol Hill in knots, and bring the nation’s judicial system to a halt.

But McCain claims the GOP will never support a justice who does not embrace his party’s narrow right-wing stance on social issues, such as same-sex marriage, birth control and a woman’s duty to obey her husband.

McCain’s comments came in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano to promote the candidacy of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.”

“This is the strongest argument I can make to return Pat Toomey, so we can make sure there are not three places on the United States Supreme Court that will change this country for decades,” McCain said.

There is already one vacancy on the court after the death of Antonin Scalia. Republicans have refused to fill the opening for months, arguing it should be left up to the next president. Given the ages of some of the eight remaining justices, additional vacancies are expected.

Republicans’ refusal to allow a President Clinton to get her Supreme Court picks confirmed would certainly result in a major conflagration in the Senate and between Congress and the White House. Democrats are already suggesting that one outcome, known as the “nuclear option,” might be to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. That would be a possibility only if Democrats retake Senate control.

Asked to clarify McCain’s comment, spokeswoman Rachael Dean said: “Sen. McCain believes you can only judge people by their record, and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees. That being said, Sen. McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications, as he has done throughout his career.”

In the same radio interview McCain also questioned the host’s assertion that Donald Trump would be superior to Clinton on the issue of Supreme Court nominees. “I don’t know, because I hear him saying a lot of different things,” McCain said on that question.

McCain revoked his lukewarm endorsement of Trump after an Access Hollywood tape surfaced of Trump bragging about how his fame allowed him to “do anything” to women.


Schooling an intelligence: acting in the wake of Orlando

When, on June 13, a handful of Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen walked off the floor of the House of Representatives and several others remained to challenge vocally the failure of the Congress to consider and enact firearms-related legislation, they ignited much more than a collateral skirmish in America about the meaning, the solemnity, and the purpose of moments of silence. To be sure, their actions animated, at least in part, the legislative goings-on of the following days — including the 14-hour filibuster on the June 15 and 16, initiated by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, on the floor of the other deliberative chamber on Capitol Hill, and the 26-hour sit-in, led by Georgia Congressman John Lewis back in the House on the June 22 and 23 — all organized to rally the spirit of America in movement toward that day when rational, balanced, and effective federal laws are codified among other common sense mechanisms to reduce if not stop outright the types of cataclysmic violence that most recently and savagely ripped 49 of us from our national life and brutally injured hundreds of others, both physically and emotionally, in the common pursuit of livelihood.

But in his public explanation of why he chose to leave the People’s House during the moment of silence on June 13, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Connecticut, was on to something much more: Among other unsettling aspects of the impotence that infects the work of the women and the men we send to Washington, Himes bemoaned the “torrent of hate, threats and anger worthy of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell (directed) toward elected officials who speak out for reform.” Understanding and articulating the indivisible connections between the hearts and the minds of men and women of all times, it was the 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri who told us that “(t)he hottest places … are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” It is thus in this abiding time of pain and trouble and suffering that our hearts must school our intelligence — away from the inertia, the indifference, and, yes, the neutrality of inaction and toward an aggressive, targeted set of behaviors that genuinely mean something, that generate forward industry, and that change practically the life and the livelihood of our nation.

So what precisely is it that thoughtful, caring, and engaged Wisconsinites — including but not limited to those who proudly count themselves among the cherished and valued members of our LGBT community — should be about in the wake of Orlando, in pursuit of the finest, most genuine memorial to those who were martyred at the Pulse nightclub? There are, of course, the often-touted recommendations, frequently advanced because they do, in fact, make sense: Among them is advocacy for the candidacies of those people who understand that, while legislation and the enforcement of those laws is not a panacea, things like universal background checks in all venues and all exchanges, prohibitions on sales to persons with convictions for violent misdemeanors, judicial processes for protective orders restraining lethally violent family members, and measured changes in the coverage and the penalties of laws prohibiting so-called “straw” purchasing and preventing certain categories of offenders like those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining concealed carried permits — all of these and other reasonable proposals would make cognizable differences — for, yes, the LGBT community and also for the partnered communities of every race and national origin, each faith and religious affiliation, and all abilities and disabilities.

Recognition of that sisterhood and brotherhood among our neighbors in Wisconsin and throughout the country should also prompt a renewed and reinvigorated engagement by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women in the leadership and policy-making, the programming and presentations, the education and training, and the public events and gatherings of our area’s many, diverse associations, councils, alliances, and coalitions — both formal and informal, public and private — that are committed to addressing the civil rights issues and wrestle with the human dignity challenges that affect all of us. Consistent with this commission (already pursued activity and effectively by many), members of the Milwaukee-based LGBT community will find their welcoming places and invest resourceful time in the human rights and other life-affirming initiatives of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, of Independence First and Disability Rights Wisconsin, of the Milwaukee Urban League and the Milwaukee Chapter of the NAACP, of El Centro Hispano and Voces de la Frontera, of the Running Rebels and Urban Underground, of the Boys and Girls Clubs and COA Youth & Family Centers, of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, MICAH, Pastors United, and virtually all venues of our faith congregations — an illustrative (and wildly incomplete) list of civic invitations.

Our recent history of devastating violence in places like Charleston, Roseburg, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Binghamton, Newtown, Blacksburg, Killeen, Columbine, and Oak Creek, among many others, confirms both the chilling ferocity and the complex animation of people who — as human “cocktails” of hate, disaffection, anger, delusion, failure, and malice — wage devastating wars on all of us. The sanguine lesson of each of those venues is equally clear: Not only must we address a society in which firearms are increasingly used as the mechanisms for conflict resolution but we need also, desperately, to confront the voices, the instruction, the encouragement of those who fail or simply refuse to understand the abundant benefits and transcendent values in diversity — of color, creed, homeland, heritage, capacity, ability, orientation, and identity — in education, housing, public access, commerce, the arts, religion, employment, transportation, voting, neighborhood, and family.

And the initiatives and programs, existing and forthcoming, to accomplish all of that must be designed and implemented cross-community — invoking the vested intelligence, the practical experience, and the animated spirit of every interest group and individual body in ways and means that are operationally coordinated in vision, in communication, and in action with each other. The interests and challenges, the needs and aspirations of the LGBT community are those of every community of women and men in Wisconsin and throughout our nation that is similarly committed to fair treatment, equal protection, just administration of the law, and lives lived with dignity, compassion, nobility, and pride in what it means to be human.

That can and will be accomplished when the boards of directors, the executive leadership, the active members, the volunteer staff, and the served constituents of all of our civil rights leagues are populated with representation by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and men — along with equally invested men and committed women of every race, nationality, disability, ability, religion, and faith affiliation who are straight. Human rights to jobs, to schooling, to accommodations, to movement — in short, to be free from bias and discrimination in all of the adventures of our lives — are rights shared across communities, and the successes routinely witnessed when LGBT voices and energies are embedded in the missions of anti-violence, faith, youth opportunity, business, disability rights, arts, voting rights, charitable, and neighborhood safety groups, for instance, are many and borderline miraculous.

Finally, those same area voices and local energies must be re-committed, not only in the immediate aftermath of Orlando but for all time, to ensure that instances of hate crimes, from the unmistakable to the uncertain, are fully and timely reported to law enforcement. In Milwaukee, in the surrounding communities, and in virtually every region of our state, we benefit from an educated, sensitive, responsive, and professional cadre of police officers and leaders who genuinely “get this” — that is, that physical violence visited on our residents and motivated by actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability is in violation of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by the President in October of 2009. The civil rights units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation throughout Wisconsin and every other state are not only committed to investigate hate crimes and to present the results of those inquiries for possible prosecution but are also commissioned to record, maintain, track, and report on hate crimes in all categories of offense so that law enforcement resources may be appropriately allocated and, arguably just as important, to ensure that the Congress and all United States citizens appreciate the nature, the frequency, the location, and the severity of the conduct — along with the remedial actions of law enforcement to it.

The hate crime committed against the patrons of the Pulse night club on June 12 now takes its rightful but hideous place in those annals of law enforcement, of Congressional reporting, and, most significantly, of the wounds to our nation’s spirit and enduring history. In abiding honor and vested memory of those who died, those who were injured, and those who will similarly suffer throughout their lives from the terror of that early morning, all residents of Wisconsin and of our country—not only members of our LGBT family — are suitably prompted to identity perceived hate crimes, to facilitate timely communications to first responders, to support victims and witnesses in difficult but critical investigations, and to educate fellow citizens on their obligations under the law and on the delivery of justice and resurrection to survivors of hate.

As we observe and celebrate the 240th year of our glorious American nation, we also pause in contemplative acknowledgment that our history includes pains and troubles — times and places, indeed, where our hearts have suffered in a thousand and diverse ways. But it is from the hornbooks of our hearts, from the terrible experiences of this month and many others, that we grow in our intelligence, that we take our true identity, and that we reveal our soul in peace, in fellowship, and in aspiration.

James L. Santelle is the immediate past presidentially-appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in which capacity he also served on the Civil Rights component of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He has been a regular supporter of area LGBT organizations, including Fair Wisconsin, Diverse & Resilient, the Cream City Foundation, and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.


Murphy ends filibuster, Senate Republicans agree to votes on gun measures

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy ended a blockade of the Senate after nearly 15 hours, saying Republicans agreed to hold votes on measures to expand background checks and prevent people on U.S. terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

Democrats stalled Senate proceedings on June 15 and into June 16 in a bid to push for tougher gun control legislation following the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and spoke on the Senate floor through out the night.

Republicans, who currently have a 54-person majority in the Senate, have over the years blocked gun control measures, saying they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

“When we began there was no commitment, no plan to debate these measures,” Murphy, of Connecticut, said during the 15th hour of the filibuster early on Thursday.

He said Democrats were given a commitment by the Senate’s Republican leadership that votes would be allowed on two measures on preventing gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists and expanding background checks.

“No guarantee that those amendments pass but we’ll have some time to … prevail upon members to take these measures and turn them into law,” Murphy said.

With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the massacre, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns.

The Senate had began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists. The Orlando gunman, who carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, had been on such a list.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators on June 15 to offer ideas on how to prevent another attack like the one in Orlando.

Late on June 15, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said negotiations “were little more than a smokescreen by Republicans trying to give themselves political cover while they continue to march in lock-step with the NRA’s extreme positions.”

If Congress was to pass a gun control measure, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that lawmakers agreed on how to address the hot-button issue. A ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the one used in Orlando, had gone into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later.

Wendy Davis expected to run for Texas governor

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democrat who filibustered an abortion law for nearly 13 hours, has begun the slow rollout of her campaign for Texas governor.

She has sent an email asking supporters to spread the word and donate money ahead of a “what’s next” announcement.

The Fort Worth Democrat stopped short of revealing her decision, saying she would make a formal announcement on Oct. 3.

But the well-trodden tactic of announcing an announcement clearly signals a campaign far larger than a re-election bid to her state Senate seat. The slow roll out has become a hallmark of modern campaigns.

No other Democrat has expressed interest in running for governor in Texas, where a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide office in 20 years. Experts say Davis would need to raise $40 million to mount a serious campaign. The leading Republican candidate, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has raised more than $20 million.

Jason Stanford, a Democratic consultant who has worked on past Texas gubernatorial campaigns, said Davis is building her email list, which is critical for organizing volunteers and raising money statewide.

“This is what you would do before you run for governor, this is not what you would do to run for re-election,” he said.

Davis’ progressive politics and charisma on the campaign trail have long made her popular among Texas Democrats. But her daylong speech defending women’s right to an abortion won her fame across the country and added to her donor list. She has attended fundraisers in New York, Washington and San Francisco.

For months, Democrats have urged Davis to run after her filibuster in June against new abortion restrictions. She was initially successful, forcing Republican Gov. Rick Perry to call a second special session to reconsider the legislation. The Republican-controlled Legislature easily passed the measures.

Battleground Texas, a Democratic group seeking to boost voter turnout among women and minorities, emailed supporters highlighting Davis’ email. The group asked for volunteers to organize Davis watch-parties on Oct. 3.

“This is a pivotal moment for Texas, we need to start organizing right away so we can build up the grassroots operation Wendy will need if she decides to run for governor,” wrote Jenn Brown, the group’s executive director.

In email message, Davis asked supporters to post her plans on social media sites, encourage others to join her email list.

“I truly appreciate all the work that you – my grassroots team – have done for me thus far. And I’m excited about what we can do together in the future,” the email says. Those who sign up are immediately urged to donate to her campaign.

Davis originally promised to announce her intentions by Labor Day, but her father became ill following complications from abdominal surgery. He died Sept. 5, and Davis has spent the last two weeks with her family.

GOP, Democrats seek to capitalize on Texas abortion debate with fundraising, more votes

In Texas, there is nothing like a fight over abortion laws to mobilize hardcore Republican and Democratic voters.

Following Fort Worth Sen. Wendy Davis’ 12-hour filibuster and the subsequent protest that killed an effort to restrict where, when and how women may obtain abortions, both sides of the debate are using the legislative drama watched around the world over the Internet to raise money, register voters and rile up their supporters.

Within a few hours after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst pronounced Senate Bill 5 dead, social media was awash with fundraising appeals from both political parties, dozens of candidates and countless activists. Like few other issues, abortion triggers a passionate and deeply emotional response that turns out voters.

In the last two Republican primaries, less than 1.5 million people cast ballots in the only competitive election to choose statewide officials. That means to get elected, they only needed 750,000 votes in a state of 26 million people to run in the general election ballot where they were almost certain to win because of their party affiliation and straight-ticket voting.

The social conservative wing of the Republican Party has historically decided who wins those primary races, and no statewide candidate can win without an anti-abortion plank in their platform. They cite the Bible and a belief that civil rights protections should begin at conception.

Anti-abortion groups keep scorecards on how elected officials vote, and conservative Republicans line up at their meetings to denounce Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing women the right to an abortion.

Gov. Rick Perry and all other statewide officials have called for reversing Roe v. Wade and making abortion illegal. In the Texas House, there is only one Republican who voted against the proposed new abortion restrictions, and that’s likely because Rep. Sarah Davis represents a less conservative west Houston district where she is vulnerable in the general election.

Every Republican candidate running for statewide office in 2014 has already proclaimed their opposition to abortion and many are using the filibuster in their fundraising.

Democrats, meanwhile, have not won statewide office since 1994, the longest losing streak in the country. They’ve seen the Republican brand dominate Texas statewide politics and the Texas Democratic Party marginalized, with less than 700,000 voters participating in each of the last two primaries.

For most Democrats, a woman’s choice is a basic human right, with some opposing abortions on religious grounds. While none say they think abortions are good, they point to statistics that show abortion rates are lower in areas where contraception is affordable and abortions are readily available.

Women’s groups and Democrats began mobilizing to stop the new abortion regulations when Senate Bill 5 came up in a House committee on June 20. More than 700 people signed up to testify, most of them opposed to the law.

When Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, ended testimony with 267 people still waiting to provide their views, a protest movement was born that showed up for an all-night House debate and then the filibuster. Democratic Party activists signed up as many new voters as they could from the more than 1,000 protesters on Tuesday, knowing that women and young voters have fueled the party’s resurgence in other states.

Texas ranks 47th in the nation in voter participation. Democrats aim to change the electoral math by getting more people fired up about issues such as abortion, and the group Battleground Texas has millions in seed money from the party to get started.

FreedomWorks, a tea party organization, plans to spend at least $8 million to mobilize conservative voters.

Both groups and many others will likely see cash injections from supporters following the drama in the Texas Senate last week, even if the abortion measures will almost certainly become law next month. And while a federal court challenge would keep the law from being enforced anytime soon, the debate around it will have an immediate impact on the 2014 elections.

Texas Republicans vow to pass extreme anti-choice bill in next two weeks

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised Saturday that a bill toughening abortion restrictions would not be derailed again after screaming protesters this week drowned out state senators and ran out the clock on a vote.

In a new special session that starts July 1, lawmakers will take up the anti-abortion bill again after failing to pass it by midnight Tuesday. Political rivals have questioned Dewhurst’s leadership in the Senate and blamed him for the bill’s collapse _ a chaotic scene broadcast over the Internet.

Dewhurst said Saturday after speaking at the National Right to Life Convention that next time, he’ll move to have protesters thrown out if they become disorderly. He said he had tried to get them out Tuesday, though outnumbered troopers in the Capitol were not seen removing most protesters until the early hours of Wednesday.

Believe me,” Dewhurst told reporters. “I have spent most of my time between about 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and through yesterday making sure that when I give the order … to clear the gallery, it gets done.”

The bill would place new restrictions on abortion clinics that would shutter nearly all of them and ban the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy.

In his speech, Dewhurst ripped the crowds opposing a vote as driven by “hatred” and “mob rule.” He called on anti-abortion activists to fill hearing rooms and galleries during the next session as their opponents have done, and use social media to broadcast their support using the hashtag “(hash)stand4life.”

As for State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster delayed the vote on the session’s final day and put her in the national spotlight, Dewhurst said, “No human being can talk for two weeks. This bill is going to pass.”

He told reporters he would move quickly on the bill to keep it out of “filibuster range.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s move to add abortion regulations well into the first special session limited the time senators had to act on it, Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst also backed down from comments published Friday on the conservative website Hot Air, in which he said he’d heard reporters in the Capitol were inciting protesters. He told Hot Air he would “take action” against any reporters who were driving the crowd.

On Saturday, he said he respected reporters and that “the case is closed.”

Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2002, and he is running for re-election next year. But a year after he was soundly beaten in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by Ted Cruz, Dewhurst faces rivals who used Tuesday’s episode to question his ability.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a letter that Dewhurst “has lost his grip on the reins of the Senate.” And state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has also joined the race, said the Senate needs new leadership.

Asked about his opponents, Dewhurst said, “I know it’s harder to stay on top than get on top, and I’m going to make sure this state keeps moving forward.”

Dewhurst was flanked Saturday by two women from groups that oppose abortion: Texans For Life Coalition.

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Senate vote on DADT set for Tuesday

There is a lot of news circulating about the National Defense Authorization Act, the filibuster vote, the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal provision and Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Senate will vote at 2:15 p.m. on cloture for the motion to proceed to debate on NDAA. That means that opponents of DADT need 60 votes to move forward.

LGBT civil rights activists maintain they actually have more than 60 votes.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has changed the terms of the debate, slighting moderate Republicans lined up to vote to break any filibuster.

Reid’s rule will block any amendments to NDAA.

In the final hours before the vote, activists are urging calls to the Senate switchboard and offices.

Callers are asked to request that Reid return to the original terms of amendments and debate for NDAA.

Callers also are asked to call five key Republicans on the issue.

Reid’s contact is 202-224-3542.

The five Republicans are Sen. Susan Collins, Maine, 202-224-2523; Sen. Dick Lugar, Indiana, 202-224-4814; Sen. George Voinovich, Ohio, 202-224-3353; Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine, 202-224-5344 and Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts, 202-224-4543.