Thursday, December 09, 2010

Senate Rejects "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

By a vote of 57 to 40, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, effectively killing, most likely, any chance of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year.

Breaking with an otherwise-unified Republican front was Senator Collins of Maine, who before the vote had gotten into a somewhat-heated debate with Majority Leader Harry Reid over what seemed to be the break-down of negotiations between the two senators.

Siding with Republicans in defeating the motion was Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia.

Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas later said she would have voted for cloture, but was unable to be there for the vote and was not allowed to amend the record to add her vote.

Immediately after the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont took to the floor:
"The last couple of years we've gotten into this habit where nobody wants to vote yes or no, they want to vote maybe, they want to block things from even being considered.  At a time when our nation's in two wars, we can't even get a yes or no vote, we get a maybe.  I find it frustrating."
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, who highlighted Republicans' continued raising of the proverbial bar (a study, hearings on the study, amendments, debate, tax breaks, etc.) and the serious danger of not passing the NDAA:
"[Republican opposition] thwarts a serious discussion about serious national security issues.  Imagine that, we're in the middle of two wars and can't discuss issues of vital national security.  I don't think Americans all across the country understand such obstructions.  I remain hopeful that somehow this congress can somehow find a way to pass this Defense Authorization bill for the 49th consecutive year.  I'm willing to stay through Christmas to get this work done.  If we can't get "Don't Act, Don't Tell" passed through this bill, then I'm willing to stay past the holidays and debate it as a stand-alone bill."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion for a vote to invoke cloture on the NDAA bill around 8:15 pm, pretty much implying that negotiations had failed to work themselves out in time and that “it’s our troops who will pay the price for our inability to overcome our partisan politics.”

Sen. Collins, who had just arrived to the floor after hearing that Lieberman was moving for a vote, asked for clarification, and Reid informed her that he was not settling on a particular number of amendments and that Republicans - although he lavished praise on her specifically - were "not allowing us to do anything legislatively."

Collins seemed genuinely disappointed and frustrated by what she was hearing:
“It seems evident to me that unfortunately the majority leader is not pursuing the path that we discussed. I want to vote to proceed to this bill; I was the first Republican to announce my support for the carefully-constructed language in the Armed Services Committee that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  This is an enormously important bill… I do not understand why we can’t proceed along a path that will bring us to success and will allow us to get the 60 votes to proceed, which I am willing tt be one of those 60 votes. I thought we were extremely close to getting a reasonable agreement yesterday that would allow us to proceed... There was such a clear path… and I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics. We should be able to do better and Senator Lieberman and I have been bargaining in good faith with the majority leader.”
This cloture vote was largely seen as the last chance Democrats had of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year - or, given a Republican takeover of the House next year, for the next several years to come.

Sources say, however, that it is possible DADT will be introduced as a stand-alone bill... Stay tuned.

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