Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked efforts to authorize repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members, voting unanimously against advancing the Defense Authorization Bill — legislation that included the provision.
The massive, $726 billion defense policy bill would have overturned the 1993 law, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” only after a Pentagon review and certification from the President that lifting the ban wouldn’t hurt troop morale.
But Senate Republicans, joined by two Arkansas Democrats, blocked the bill, with many arguing that the added measures — the DADT policy repeal, and the so-called DREAM Act, which would give conditional green cards to undocumented children and young adults who graduate from high school and pursue college or military service — had no place in a defense-spending bill.
“It is outrageous and it is sad that the Republicans have banded together to refuse to even let us begin debate on a bill which is so critically important to our nation’s defense, and so vital to the well-being of the men and women in uniform and their families,” said Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“This was a sad day for America,” concluded Levin.
The vote was 56-43, four short of the 60 required to advance under Senate rules; not since 1948 has Congress failed to act on the defense authorization bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had championed the bills, also voted “no” as a procedural maneuver so that he’d be able to bring it up again. A spokesman for Reid said no decision had been made as to when the Senator might call up the bill again.
HRC President Joe Solmonese called the Republican-led filibuster “election year politics at its worst.”
“Today’s Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections.”
Tuesday’s vote was a major blow to gay rights activists who saw the legislation as their best hope, at least in the short term, for repeal of the 17-year-old ban. The Senate will not likely take up the defense authorization bill again until after the mid-term elections in November.
Since its inception in 1993 during the Clinton administration, an estimated 13,000 people have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Nearly 80 percent of Americans support repealing DADT according to a recent CNN poll.