Gay Rights Advocates Say Dem Leader Hoyer Saved ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal

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... not being briefed yesterday afternoon. he should have been briefed on. they've taken steps to correct that now. >> mark, when all is said and done perhaps later today we do expect the president to have a press conference before he gets on that plane, air force one, and heads to hawaii. mark? >> mike, live at the white house. thank you. >>> house majority leader steny hoyer joins us live from the capitol. leader hoyer, many people are saying that you more than anybody are responsible for the legislative strategy that got this don't ask, don't tell repeal done before the end of the year stripping it out of the authorization bill, fast tracking it through the house, getting a vote in the senate before the s.t.a.r.t. vote. can you tell us a little bit about how you approach that how you got it done? >> first of all, of course, there are an awful lot of people who worked very, very hard for a very long period of time to get to this day, where we saw the president sign the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. and what it really was today was another affirmation in america's quest towards making sure that people are treated for what they are. their performance, their character, and not on some arbitrary distinction which really doesn't matter in terms of performance. and, yes, i played a role and we had a strategy at the end which said, okay, you can't pass it in the defense bill as we did in the house. we'll put that bill as a separate item. i discussed it with the advocates. i discussed it with the senate and the republican senators and senator lieberman and with speaker pelosi. and i suggested this strategy which we pursued and was successful. but this is an effort that has been a very long effort, literally involving thousands of people who have worked very, very hard. and so many members of the service who have served patriotically with great courage, with great service to our country. and then unfortunately removed from the service almost 14,000 people whose only downside from their standpoint was their sexual orientation. not their performance on the job. not their patriotism, not their heroism. and today we have affirmed that no america is about capability, character, and performance. >> just briefly, just a few weeks ago a lot of your members were very angry about the tax bill and were saying the president should have fought harder to fight for ending the tax cuts for the top bracket. but the white house was arguing that you needed to get that out of the way before you could get don't ask, don't tell and s.t.a.r.t. and other things accomplished. have some of the feelings there changed given what's been accomplished since then? >> well, i think this lame-duck session has been anything but lame. it has been, i think, probably the most productive post-election session in which i've participated. and i don't think that's necessarily by happenstance. i think the fact that the politics are somewhat over. they're never fully over. but the election is not facing us. and people were prepared to come together and work together for progress. and in terms of the tax bill to which you referred, the president knew and we knew that we did not want taxes to go up for middle income working americans. we knew that we wanted to extend unemployment insurance for those who, through no fault of their own, were having trouble putting food on their tables, that they needed help in an insurance program for which they had paid. so that the president knew we had to get those things done. and he knew that in order to do so we had to make an agreement perhaps as most compromises are, accepting some things you didn't like to get the things you did like. so i think the answer to your question is, i think members more and more are coming to the realization that it was a positive act, whether they voted for or against, a positive act in making sure that our primary objectives were met. were there some things in that bill that people didn't like that they didn't think would help grow the economy? the answer to that is yes. but i think upon greater thought, the president's actions are perceived, i think, correctly,as getting to a place where we needed to be and the legislative process is a process of compromise. >> and just very briefly. do you have a deal on the 9/11 health bill to get that through without the delay? >> i've talked to senator schumer. i've talked to senator reid, the majority leader in the senate. i'm told that, yes, there is an agreement between the democratic side, the proponents of 9/11, giving those people who bravely went into the world trade center after it collapsed to try to save lives, extricate people and ...