Senate Republicans blocked repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" Thursday, significantly dimming prospects that the ban on gays serving openly in the military will be lifted during this lame-duck session of Congress.
The 57-40 vote came on a motion to bring the giant defense budget bill, which included repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" (DADT), to the floor, with Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid unable to muster the 60 votes to launch debate.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had pinned his hopes on the Senate for an orderly implementation of the change in military policy. The House voted this fall to repeal the 17-year-old law, and a positive Senate vote would have allowed the Pentagon to begin a lengthy process to actually lift the ban.
Unless the Senate acts this month, it is likely the courts will order an immediate repeal, an outcome Gates has said would lead to chaos and precisely the kind of disruption of morale and combat readiness many critics of repeal have feared.
Reid and Maine Republican Susan Collins had tried this week to reach a deal to allow debate on the defense budget legislation. Collins was one of three Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who had said they would vote for repeal of DADT. But Brown and Murkowski joined other Republicans in voting to bypass debate on the defense legislation until after the Senate considers extending the Bush-era tax cuts and other matters.
The vote coincided with the release of a new Gallup poll showing that two-thirds of Americans want the DADT law off the books.
* Senate Delays Votes on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and DREAM Act
* Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Unclear After Brass Asks Senate for Time
* Pentagon to Release 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Report Early
The Defense Department had reached a similar finding with a yearlong study which surveyed 255,000 of the 2.5 million service members, as well as their families. It found the majority would not oppose serving with gays or lesbians and did not think it would disrupt combat readiness or unit cohesion.
In urging the Senate to take up repeal of DADT, Reid said the law banning gays from serving openly in the military was "obsolete, embarrassing and weakens our military ... repealing it will make our country stronger.''
The vote was taken without debate.
Advocates of repeal say there is less chance the new Congress, which takes office in January, will act favorably on repeal. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which supports repeal, urged Reid to keep the Senate in session to try again for a vote.
"While difficult, realistic options still exist for advocates and senators to move repeal this year,'' said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of SLDN.
A U.S. District Court judge has already ruled the gay ban unconstitutional and ordered an immediate worldwide lifting of all Defense Department regulations providing for investigation and discharge of gay and lesbian service members. The 9th District Court of Appeals is currently weighing a Justice Department appeal to stay that order and overturn the lower court decision. A ruling from the appellate court is expected in March.
The Pentagon has prepared an 86-page plan to rewrite regulations and educate the troops before repeal of the law is implemented. Defense Department officials said the process would take months, in part because 97,000 military personnel currently serving in Afghanistan could not receive the training until they return home after their tours, which last from four to 12 months.
Language in the legislation that failed Thursday would prohibit any change until the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that implementation would not harm morale or readiness.
"I believe it would be unwise to push ahead with full implementation of repeal before more can be done to prepare the force -- in particular those ground combat specialties and units -- for what could be a disruptive and disorienting change,'' Gates told reporters Nov. 30.
Similar reservations were expressed by the military chiefs in a lengthy and contentious Senate hearing Dec. 3, during which they expressed much the same reservations as Gates. Of the four military service chiefs, the Marine commandant, Gen. James F. Amos, was most outspoken: " My recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time,'' he told the committee.
Some 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged in the 17 years since the gay ban was enacted during the Clinton administration.
http://www.metroweekly.com/poliglot/201 ... n-dad.html
On a 63-33 vote, and with six Republicans voting "yes," the U.S. Senate -- at a little before noon today -- voted for cloture on the stand-alone bill aimed at repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, overcoming the largest hurdle remaining for repeal of the 1993 law banning openly gay, lesbian and bisexual military service.
The House approved the bill overwhelmingly this past week, and President Barack Obama has expressed his strong support for the bill and is expected to sign it.
The cloture vote, which required the approval of at least 60 senators, means that only 30 hours of debate remain before DADT repeal comes up for a final vote. Usually, because the vote for final passage only requires a simple majority vote of the senators, the 30-hour requirement is waived. It was not clear, however, whether Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow the requirement to be waived regarding the DADT repeal bill.
The Republicans voting "yes" were: Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass), Susan Collins (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Collins had co-sponsored the repeal bill.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said, "Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country. Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago."
In a statement, Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson said, "This vote represents an historic step forward for this country, and it will very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops.
"While we still have a long road ahead, including a final passage vote, the certification process, and a yet-to-be-determined implementation period, those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon."
Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement, "Gay, lesbian and bisexual service members posted around the world are standing a little taller today, but they’re still very much at risk because repeal is not final."
Sarvis went further, though, pointing to the fact that the policy remains in effect.
"I respectfully ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' investigations during this interim period. Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day Congressional period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law," he said. "Even with this historic vote, service members must continue to serve in silence until repeal is final."
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) did not vote and issued a statement saying that he cannot support DADT repeal at this time. Three Republicans did not vote: Sens. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
The vote came less than 10 days after the Senate failed to achieve cloture on a motion to proceed to debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which contained the DADT repeal provision.
It also came just moments after the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the DREAM Act, an immigration bill that had been a key goal of liberals for passage in the lame-duck session, on a 55-41 vote.
DADT will be put to a vote within the next 30 hours - and all we'll need is 51. We have between 57-63. We've done it. DADT is essentially dead and gone. I wept when I saw that vote. 2 long fucking years...