A visibly irritated Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), came to the floor of the U. S. Senate earlier this afternoon, and in a short speech announced that efforts to seek a compromise with Senate Republicans on the Defense Authorization Bill had failed, and that he was going to ask for a cloture vote.
However, he acknowledged that there weren’t enough votes to stop the threatened Republican filibuster, and conceded that failure to reach an agreement would doom the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which has been a priority for the White House and the LGBT community.
The Senate vote was 57-40, three votes short of the 60 needed to advance the bill for debate and vote.
An hour after the final vote was taken Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced they will introduce a stand alone measure to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the end of the current Senate session.
Reaction to today’s Senate vote from activist groups was swift:
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released this statement immediately following the vote:
Moments ago, the Senate voted against bringing up debate on the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached. That the Senate refused to take up the issue is certainly a failure of leadership by both parties.
Since it appears Congress won’t repeal the law this year, the fate of lesbian and gay service members now rests in President Obama’s hands. To make good on his commitment to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, the President must stop defending DADT in federal court and issue a stop-loss order halting military discharges.
“The Senate’s apparent refusal to act on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal makes Presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his state of the union promise,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable.”
“Every day that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country. If Congress won’t act, it’s up to the President to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago,” said Solmonese.
The Senate just voted on whether to bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) up for conversation. Not for passage — just for conversation. It failed. We all laid everything we could on the line for this bill — a piece of legislation that would have repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We all know that gay and lesbian Americans are just as patriotic and capable as straight Americans — but dysfunctional Senate processes, a homophobic Republican Party, and a spineless Democratic Party got in the way of equality once again.
Today’s vote is heartbreaking and demoralizing to all members of OutServe — and the tens of thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members — who must continue to serve in silence and live a lie.
No words can describe how it felt to watch our U.S. senators uphold discrimination and perpetuate the deceit and compromised integrity that consistently result under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We had more faith in our elected officials to heed the advice of military leadership and vote against prejudice. Instead, a minority of senators have successfully blockaded the entire defense spending bill on the basis of prejudice and politics.
“This was a major failure on the part of the Senate to simply do its job and pass an annual defense authorization bill. Politics prevailed over responsibility today, and now more than one million American servicemembers, including tens of thousands of gay and lesbian troops, are worse off as a result,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“Since the votes are there in isolation, the Senate should still consider a stand-alone bill to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law before adjourning for the winter holidays.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been a failed experiment in discrimination — it has kept countless patriotic Americans from serving their country in the military, and sent thousands of brave men and women packing after honorable careers in the armed forces. For too long, an unjust, ineffective, and unpopular policy has been kept in place by the divisive politics of the far-right fringe.
As Secretary Gates has acknowledged, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t hold up for long in the court of law. The Senate’s refusal to end the policy at Sec. Gates’ request — and to sink an important Defense bill along with it—is short-sighted and irresponsible, and puts right-wing politics ahead of national security.
“National Stonewall Democrats is gravely disappointed at the inability of the Senate to overcome obstinate and extremist Republicans obsessed with tax cuts for the very wealthy at the expense of the rest of America, resulting in a failure to reach cloture on the NDAA,” said Michael Mitchell, Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats. “It’s astonishing that the GOP is willing to put squabbles about procedure and taxes over the lives of American soldiers and veterans.”
“We are heartened, however, that Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Mark Udall, and Sen. Susan Collins have announced that they are going to file a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT and we call on all Senators –- of both parties –- to pass this bill with all due haste and move it to the House immediately for passage in this Congress.”