The U.S. Senate failed to file cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s ban on allowing openly gay service members in the armed forces. The bill was blocked from proceeding to full debate by 57-40 margin. All Republicans voted against cloture expect for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), while newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) sided with Republicans in opposing the bill.
Collins has been the prime negotiator for moderate Republicans to possibly cross the aisle to support the repeal. Other Republicans, such as Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska), had previously indicated that they may support ending the ban on openly gay service members.
Collins was engaged in extensive discussions with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over how to bring the bill to the Senate floor. Those conversations hit a wall when Reid refused Collins’ request that the bill be open subject to full debate without a limit on amendments. Reid was concerned that would allow conservative Republicans to hijack the debate and delay the vote.
Collins may have supported the measure today, but she was visibly displeased throughout the process. Washington Independent alum Elise Foley reported for the Huffington Post:
Her vote came after she angrily roamed the Senate floor, rolling up text of the legislation and waving it around, smacking it on Sen. Dick Durbin’s desk and hitting him on the arm with it.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the Senate majority leader walked away from negotiations,” Collins said in a press conference held with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) following the vote. But there may still be hope for the bill to pass during the lame-duck session if Reid can negotiate favorable debate terms with the Republicans who support the bill.
“I am convinced there are 60, or even 61 or 62 votes to repeal ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Collins said. In addition, Lieberman tweeted on Thursday afternoon after the failed vote that the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal will be brought up as a standalone bill during the lame-duck session.
Polls have consistently shown that Americans support repealing the policy, with two-thirds of Americans favoring the rights of gays and lesbians to serve in the military, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. At the request of Congress, the Obama administration recently completed a year-long review on the impacts of repealing the policy, and the report indicated there would be almost no risk in ending the discriminatory policy, with the majority of service members believing repeal would either have positive or no impacts on their units.
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