After negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans
apparently broke down today, the Senate GOP just blocked a cloture vote
on the defense spending bill that includes a repeal of the military's
ban on openly gay servicemembers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the focus
of the negotiations, voted in favor of cloture while Republican Sens.
Scott Brown (MA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voted no. Freshly-elected Sen.
Joe Manchin (D-WV) also voted no.
The final vote was 57 for cloture, 40 against it, just shy of the 60 Democrats needed.
The bill could theoretically be brought up again before the end of
the lame duck session, but a Democratic leadership aide tells TPM that
negotiations are basically at an impasse. Collins had said she wanted
time to debate and amendments, and apparently she got what she wanted.
But Republicans like Brown and Murkowski who also wanted time to debate
the bill apparently were not satsified.
"I don't know what more we can do," the aide told TPM.
With the failure to find cloture, those hoping for an end to the
Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy before Congressional numbers shift in favor
of the Republicans next year are likely not going to get their wish.
President Obama and many Democrats had committed to repealing the ban
this year, but it looks like a truncated legislative schedule in the
lame duck and Republican promises to block everything until tax cuts
were passed put the future of a repeal this year on extremely thin ice
-- and that ice just cracked.
Republicans weren't the only ones voting to block the cloture vote.
Freshly-elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined with the GOP in denying a
path to the floor for the defense spending bill. Republican Sen. Lisa
Murkowski, who said recently that she favored a repeal but like Collins
her vote was incumbent upon the correct procedural hoops being jumped
through first, also voted no.
During the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent out a
statement condemning the no votes from Republicans like Murkowski and
Collins. He said that the choice today was simple: if you favor
extending the right to serve openly to gay and lesbian Americans, vote
"And there is simply no evidence and no justification - legal,
military or otherwise - for keeping this policy in place," Reid said.
"There is no reason to keep American citizens from fighting for the
country they love because of whom they love."