Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Vote Fails In Senate; Stand-Alone Bill Introduced
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday afternoon against a motion to quickly end debate on a bill that would repeal the military's don't ask, don't tell policy--a tough defeat for the Senate's Democratic leadership which says it has enough votes to pass the repeal.
Though enough senators support ending the ban on gays openly serving in the military, not all of them supported doing the repeal before having extensive debate about it or before passing a tax cuts deal. With the Obama tax cuts compromise now in jeopardy and the days left before Christmas dwindling, the hopes of repealing the ban through legislation before at least 2013 are slim.
Republican Susan Collins voted for the motion despite having been the leading voice for Republicans wanting a longer debate. She and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid debated the issue on the Senate floor right before the vote.
Some behind-the-scenes conversations show Reid ultimately decided that the Republicans would drag on an extended debate forever to prevent other measures such as the DREAM Act and the START Treaty from being considered. For Reid, it was now or ever, because it would fail either way. Some Democrats such as Joe Lieberman are likely unhappy with Reid while conservative commentators are blasting Collins.
Senators Joe Manchin, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown were among the key votes against Wednesday's cloture. All of them back eventual repeal of don't ask, don't tell. Newly-elected Sen. Mark Kirk and Maine's other senator, Olympia Snowe, also voted again cutting off debate.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln was at the dentist's office and missed the cloture vote, saying later she would have been a 58th vote in favor of it. Sam Brownback, preparing to become Kansas' governor and John Cornyn of Texas also missed the vote.
The Senate fell three votes shy (57-40) of bringing up a vote on don't ask, don't tell.
In September, the exact same motion also lost by showing three votes.
The House passed the defense spending legislation that includes the repeal of the ban earlier this year.
In a post on Twitter, Lieberman said he and Collins are pushing a stand-alone version of the repeal, but Republicans are likely to block such a bill in the same way when Reid brings it up.
A federal judge ruled in September that the ban on gays was unconstitutional. The Obama administration appealed the ruling and a hearing is expected to be held in early 2011. After the initial ruling by Judge Virginia Phillips, there was an eight-day period during which the ban was technically not in place. Unless Congress repeals don't ask, don't tell before the end of the year, the policy would likely come before the U.S. Supreme Court eventually.