'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Fails

Liberals despair, though debate is not dead

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The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military will probably not be repealed this year, as seemed likely only hours ago, now that the bill has failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to reach the Senate floor for debate. The House had already paved the way for the repeal.

The vote failed 57-40. Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voiced support for repeal but had procedural objections, ultimately voted no, as did one Democrat. Susan Collins of Main was the only Republican to vote yes, after down-to-the-wire negotiations that left procedural issues unresolved and the support of Brown and Murkowski unsecured when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for the vote.

Repeal may not be entirely out of the question, however. Senator Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, announced shortly after the vote that he and Collins will introduce a standalone repeal measure during the lame-duck session, with Reid as a co-sponsor. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports that proponents of repeal hope some moderate Republicans who voted no today will support this second measure if it's voted on after the tax cut deal is resolved. There is also speculation that the Democrat defector, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, will vote yes if he is the 60th vote in this next round.

Meanwhile, liberal supporters of repeal are fuming:

  • A Very Sad Day, blogs Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: "The tax cut deal no longer looks quite as attractive to me."
  • We've Been Here Before, says Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly: "The result was a replay of the last time Republicans killed DADT repeal, in September -- GOP senators who claimed to want to do the right thing blocked a vote because they disapproved of the majority's procedural measures ... Because the Senate is ridiculous, a 57-member tripartisan majority loses, and a 40-member minority wins."
  • Republicans Are So Hypocritical, says Dan Savage at The Stranger: "Let's pretend that the Dems had blocked a Defense Authorization Bill during wartime. The GOP would spin it this as attack on the troops and proof that the Dems were hopelessly out of touch with mainstream America (which supports the repeal of DADT by wide margins--even Republicans support the repeal of DADT). Because the GOP plays politics to win."
  • A Failure of Democratic Leadership On Both Ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, charges Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog: "There is plenty of blame to go around. Let's start with Barack Obama. The President's cracker jack team of political experts put together this DADT repeal strategy. It's been a mess from the beginning. The White House never fought hard enough and waited way too long."
  • A Failure of the Senate, declares Ezra Klein at The Washington Post: "A procedural failsafe that's theoretically meant to protect the rights of minorities was just used to restrict the rights of minorities -- which is how it's always been, of course ... The diffusion of responsibility that comes from deciding law through complex parliamentary gamesmanship rather than simple majority-rules votes is the problem."
  • This Will Have to Be Settled in Court, claims Joel at Cup O' Joel: "If the political arena can't be responsive not only to the wishes of a large majority of the citizens, but a large majority of its own members, what good is it? There's a plausible argument to be made that DADT is unconstitutional; the courts should feel free to act on that argument. They'll be hewing closer to the wishes of the citizenry than the political branches."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.