Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Tauscher to leave Congress


Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher. Photo: Bob Roehr
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The lead sponsor of legislation to repeal the anti-gay military policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek), has confirmed she likely will be leaving Congress to take a top position in the State Department. Her departure is likely to hinder the possibility of moving the repeal bill forward during this legislative session.

"Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked me to serve as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security," Tauscher, a 13-year veteran of the House, said in a news release issued on March 18. Tauscher, a strong backer of Clinton's presidential bid, said she accepted the offer.

The statement was unusual in that nominations are made by the president and potential nominees are supposed to keep their lips sealed until the official pronouncement is made and through confirmation hearings.

But word started leaking out last Tuesday, as several media outlets reported of the job change.

The position requires Senate confirmation, and Tauscher has not yet resigned her House seat.

Tauscher acknowledged, "The confirmation process for senior posts in government is fraught with uncertainty and can take weeks, if not months." Historically, members of Congress easily win confirmation, but the recent withdrawal of former Senate leader Tom Daschle to senior posts in the Obama administration suggests that may be changing.

Tauscher had reintroduced the DADT repeal legislation on March 3. Her announcement comes as a surprise to many of its supporters.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesman Kevin Nix thanked Tauscher for "her tireless efforts" to repeal DADT. "We wish her all the best in her move to the State Department," he said.

"Tauscher's shoes will be difficult to fill, but we are confident that others on the House Armed Services Committee and in the full House are equally up to the task of leading the fight to lift the ban," Nix said.

Tauscher is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairs one of its subcommittees.

One possible candidate to spearhead repeal of DADT is Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania), who serves on the personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. Murphy is just 35 and starting his second term in Congress, but he does have an impressively apt resume for the job.

A lawyer by training, he taught at West Point and volunteered for service in Iraq. He is the only member of Congress who has served in that conflict and can well represent the views of a younger generation of service members. More importantly, at last year's congressional hearing on DADT he was very aggressive in challenging the lies, distortions, and misrepresentations of the few remaining supporters of the ban.

This marks the second time in two years that the lead sponsor of the DADT repeal effort has left Congress in mid-term. Representative Marty Meehan (D-Massachusetts), the original lead sponsor, left for a post in academia in July 2007. Tauscher was then recruited to take on the repeal issue.

Bay Area open seat

Tauscher's expected departure will also open up a rare Bay Area congressional seat that will be filled by a special election. Already, one candidate has declared (via Twitter) that he is running in the moderate district that includes Walnut Creek and other cities in Contra Costa County and parts of Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties.

Adriel Hampton, a Democrat and a former political editor of the San Francisco Examiner, currently works as an investigator in the San Francisco City Attorney's office. He tweeted that he is in the race Monday, March 23 with the message: "I'm running for the House of Representatives." The news was picked up by Politico.

Hampton told the Bay Area Reporter that he opposes DADT and has military veterans in his family.

"I'm a working guy running for Congress," Hampton said in a brief telephone interview. He added that he voted no on Proposition 8.

"I spent my vacation helping the Obama campaign," he said, adding that he hopes to gather grassroots support for his uphill race.

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) reportedly plans to seek the seat, but won't announce until Tauscher officially resigns, Politico reported. Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Martinez) had considered running, but has thrown his support behind DeSaulnier, with whom he swapped legislative seats, and will focus on his race for state schools chief in 2010.

While the district now leans Democratic, Tauscher made headlines when she toppled a Republican incumbent in 1996.

Cynthia Laird contributed to this report.

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