Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Cried at a Senate Press Conference

*Update: Due to party politicking, the first vote on Pattie's appointment was, indeed, filibustered. But she will get another chance at a vote soon, and we are not giving up the fight. Thank you in advance for supporting our continued effort to get a fair shot at the bench for an exceptional one of our own.


Yep, seriously. In front of four major news outlets, six senators, and a room full of people, I cried. But I am not embarrassed, and I’m not ashamed. What I had to say was simply that personal. Here’s what happened:

I’ve been in D.C. this week talking to every senator who would listen about my friend Patricia Millett. If you’ve been on my social media for more than thirty seconds of the past week, you’ve seen me talking about her. A lot. She’s a military spouse appointee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals who unquestionably should be confirmed.
Together with other representatives of MSJDN, I visited fifteen senators’ offices in a day and a half. You probably saw the pictures on Twitter. For the most part, those conversations went very well. But I was disappointed to talk to some republican senators, including my own, who were more interested in party politics than listening.

While freely admitting that Pattie is an amazing, exceptionally well qualified appointee, they still told me they intended to filibuster, based on a litany of party-line excuses having nothing to do with Pattie, the court, or the importance of both to military families.

Mary and me with Senators Schumer, Leahy, and Hirono
Our many meetings culminated in a press conference this morning, at which MSJDN President Mary Reding and I joined Senator Patrick Leahy and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in speaking on Pattie’s behalf.

Was I nervous? You bet! Not just because of the crowd and the cameras, but because I know how important this is. It’s important for my community. It’s important for my friend. It’s important for the many, many other military spouses trying desperately to build a successful career while serving their country, who are looking to see if Pattie will be treated fairly by our leadership.

And yet, I maintained my composure as I stood at the front of the packed room, listening intently as each senator spoke in turn:
Senator Leahy welcomed everyone, talked about the importance of the D.C. Circuit, and the importance of being willing to set aside party politics to appoint exceptional attorneys to the bench. “I voted for John Roberts,” he said, “not because I agreed with him, but because he was a good candidate, and it was the right thing to do. I hope that republicans will do the same.” 

Senator Feinstein talked about Pattie as an amazing person. I was deeply honored that in her remarks she quoted heavily from the profile I wrote on Pattie last week for Bars and Stripes. Senator Feinstein’s point was simple: Pattie should be a no-brainer addition to the court.

Senator Schumer talked about the need for more judges on the D.C. Circuit, and the history and importance of the ninth seat, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ seat, which Pattie would fill if appointed. 

Senator Hirono echoed Senator Leahy’s remarks, saying that appointing great candidates like Pattie to the court is important, and should transcend party politics. 

Senator Klobuchar provided some much-needed comic relief, noting, despite accusations President Obama is court-packing, when it comes to Pattie, “the only ‘packing’ involved is packing fresh fruits and vegetables for the homeless.”
I was calm, cool, and collected as I listened to my amazing friend Mary Reding talk about how Pattie’s appointment is not about politics to the military community. How it is about supporting one of our own, at the pinnacle of her career, and gaining hope from her success, and assurance that our sacrifices matter. “If she can do it, we all can do it. A vote for Pattie is a vote for military families,” she said. (You can read Mary’s full remarks here).

And as I took the podium for my own remarks, I was no longer nervous. I was not afraid. I knew my material, I knew killing it was important, and kill it I did. (You can read my full remarks here).

The prepared remarks came to a close, and I turned to walk back to my seat. But Senator Leahy grabbed my arm, and asked that Mary and I stay put as he and the other senators answered some questions. Then, as Senator Leahy thanked everyone for their attendance, he asked the audience to take note of my lapel pin. He asked me to explain to the press what it meant.

I was wearing a service star, the symbol of a loved one in a war zone. As I described its significance, I started to falter. My heart was suddenly thousands of miles away in a helicopter in Afghanistan. Just for a moment, I couldn’t form words. Then I looked over at my friend Josie, bearing her own service star, and I lost it. Just for a second. 

I took a deep breath, begged forgiveness from the crowd and collected myself. Senator Leahy put his hand on my shoulder, and it felt like comfort and assurance all bundled together. At that moment, I thought of the many meetings we had that ended in politicking, in a deaf ear to what should be a revered voice, and I steeled myself to say something important:
“We know there are politics at play here. We understand. But not for us. Our leaders need to understand that you cannot support our troops without supporting their families. And military families want a fair shot for Pattie.”
So I cried at a senate press conference, but I’m not ashamed. This is personal. It is personal to me, to military spouses, and to our entire community, and our leaders need to be reminded of that. We are tired of patriotic lip-service that is dismissive of what military families are actually saying. We are tired of politics getting in the way of what’s right. Our husbands and wives are fighting for this country, and its leadership should care what we have to say.

We want Pattie, one of our own, treated fairly. She deserves a full Senate vote.  

Please help us send this message. Tweet, call, or email your senators, and especially republican senators threatening filibuster. Tell them YOU hear military families, and THEY should be listening too.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful! I teared up just reading it Reda! Thanks for sharing!