There are 60 votes to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell right now. Nobody contests this point. There are enough Republicans who would cross over to support repeal. What’s more, the defense authorization bill is generally popular and commands support.
But cloture on a motion to proceed on the bill nevertheless went down to defeat today, on a party-line vote (mostly; Joe Manchin voted no), because the Republican Party refused to allow the bill to pass. Maybe that’s presumptuous, but that’s what I got out of the remarkable colloquy on the Senate floor between Harry Reid and Susan Collins. After days of negotiations, Reid couldn’t come to any agreement on number of amendments and the time frame for the overall bill. So
Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Scott Brown and Richard Lugar all voted against cloture. Prior to that, on the floor, Collins sought to negotiate out the bill in public, seeking a commitment on 15 amendments, 10 for Republicans, all of them germane to the defense bill. Reid, who has the knowledge of negotiating this bill behind the scenes, couldn’t agree to a deal that wasn’t really there. Collins called herself “perplexed” that they couldn’t get an agreement, despite wanting to vote for the bill. But she voted against it.
So because of procedure, thousands of gay and lesbian service members will not be allowed to serve openly. Discrimination reigns supreme in the armed forces. As I said earlier, this is in large part due to the Pentagon setting up a December 1 study that necessarily constricted the Senate calendar for getting the defense authorization bill done. But the Republicans voting no today because of a time agreement despite their support for the underlying bill have no excuse.
The final vote numbers coming up in a minute.
MAJOR UPDATE: Collins votes Aye at the last minute, but there now aren’t enough of her colleagues. They would have to hold the vote open to find two more Republican votes or switch Manchin.
UPDATE: I’m hoping this post was a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment. Right now Joe Lieberman has buttonholed Lisa Murkowski on the floor, clearly trying to get her to switch her vote. But remember, Democrats need two more votes to invoke cloture, because Joe Manchin voted no.
UPDATE: Alas, the final vote was 57-40. Reid, I’m assuming, voted no on procedural reasons, so he can reconsider it later. But I’d say DADT repeal is dead for the year.