Thu-Dec. 9- 4:10 p.m. -The Senate has just rejected an attempt to bring the defense authorization bill to the floor, effectively killing the prospects for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year, and likely for years to come.
The vote was 57 to 40.
It could not be determined immediately which three senators did not vote. Most moderate Republicans, including Massachusetts’ Scott Brown, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, and Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, voted against allowing the bill to the floor. Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was a chief negotiator for trying to get the bill to the floor, voted for cloture.
It was a dramatic finish and, undoubtedly, viewers saw on the Senate floor just the tip of the iceberg in negotiations that sought to bring about repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor at about 3 o’clock, saying he had had tried “every possible way to move forward” on the defense authorization bill, which contains language to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But in the end, said Reid, Republicans were clearly bent on killing the repeal.
“I’ve bent over backwards, but it’s clear that Republicans…don’t want to have a vote on [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell],” said Reid, “and they’re doing whatever they can to stand in the way of this bill.”
But Collins, who has been the considered a deal-maker for Republicans on the measure, rush to the floor following Reid’s remarks and suggested she was baffled at Reid’s decision to call for reconsideration of last September’s failed vote to break the Republican-led filibuster on the measure.
“I want to vote to proceed to this bill,” said Collins, saying it was a “vitally important bill.”
“I just do not understand why we can’t proceed along a path that will bring us to success and allow us to get the 60 votes to proceed,” she said. “I’m willing to be one of those votes. I thought we were extremely close.”
Reid complimented Collins for her efforts and said she was not the problem. The problem, he said, was the GOP’s announced determination to obstruct consideration of any legislation until Congress passed a Republican-backed tax cut extension.
Gay groups working for passage of the DADT repeal measure were deeply disappointed.
Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), called it an outrage and urged the Senate to stay in session “to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck.”
“While difficult,” acknowledged Sarvis, “realistic options still exist for advocates and Senators to move repeal this year.” It’s not clear what those options are. Most observers have made clear that if the Senate rejected the motion to send the Defense bill to the floor, the repeal of DADT was effectively dead for this Congressional session. The next Congressional session includes a Congressional make-up that provides very few prospects for passage of the legislation.