The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" stalled in the Senate Thursday over procedural roadblocks, diminishing the likelihood that Congress will resolve the contentious issue this year. Repeal will likely become more difficult once Republicans take control of the House next year.
Commentators who support repeal raced to the web immediately following the failed vote, voicing their frustration with Republican obstructionism, on-the-fence legislators' dithering, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's leadership, President Obama's legislative strategy, and the Senate's byzantine parliamentary procedures. Now, as the dust settles, public officials and advocacy groups are weighing in:
- Failure to Repeal Puts U.S. Military At Mercy of Courts, Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells reporters on his plane, as he returns from a swing through Oman, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates. He urges Congress to act during the final week of the lame-duck session and explains that legislation will give the military enough time to prepare troops for a policy shift. The courts, meanwhile, might compel the military to make changes immediately, which could prove disruptive for combat forces.
- I Am Extremely Disappointed With the Senate's Vote, says President Obama in a statement:
As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. A great majority of the American people agree. This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality."
- Senate Minority Has Betrayed Troops, argues Ashwin Madia, interim chairman of left-leaning veterans advocacy group VoteVets.org: "Leaving aside ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' this bill is crucial to our military readiness, and funding our troops in harm's way. The minority of Senators can talk all they want about a tax bill needing consideration, but there is absolutely no reason why the Senate couldn't pass this and then a tax bill before leaving for recess."
- I'm Sorry--I Was Just Concerned About Timing, explains Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the lone Senate Democrat voting against repeal Thursday, in a statement obtained by The Hill. While "Don't Ask, Don't" will and should be repealed in the near future, Manchin writes, he doesn't support repeal at this time because "as a Senator of just three weeks, I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia." He adds that he would not object to President Obama ending the policy himself by making it a matter of national security.
- We Can Still Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', states Senator Susan Collins, the only Republican to join Democrats in voting for repeal, in an interview with Politico. Collins says she's convinced that there are anywhere from 60-62 votes for repeal and that the free-standing bill she and Lieberman plan to introduce will run into fewer obstacles because it will be decoupled from the defense bill. As Politico points out, her argument represents a break from the strategy Democrats have employed up to now, which held that repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be more likely to pass if integrated into a broader defense bill, which normally attracts widespread bipartisan support.
- Three Times Is Not The Charm, Tommy Sears of the Center for Military Readiness tells Politico: It's a "brazen move for Democrats to pursue yet again a liberal agenda item that has been rejected twice already, in September and today, in the face of the November elections and what’s left on the high-priority to-do list of taxes and the budget."