Senate Makes Last-Ditch Effort to Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Maya

Dec 9, 2010 3:49pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: In a last-ditch effort to scrap the military’s controversial ban on gays serving openly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today called a procedural vote on the annual defense authorization bill that includes a repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “There is simply no evidence and no justification – legal, military or otherwise – for keeping this policy in place,” Reid said on the Senate floor. Reid emphasized that “it would be unconscionable to leave here without passing it.” So does this mean that Reid has reached an agreement with Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on an amendment process that would secure her support? Apparently not. Collins is a crucial vote if the measure is to gain the 60 votes needed to pass, but she has said she will vote against the bill – despite supporting repeal – if Reid does not grant her a “fair process” for amendments. Moments after Reid spoke, Collins took to the Senate floor, saying that she was “perplexed and frustrated” by Reid’s decision to hold a vote today. “It seems evident to me that unfortunately the Majority Leader is not pursuing the path that we discussed or at least that’s my interpretation of what he’s saying. I think that’s so unfair,” she said. “I want to vote to proceed to this bill. I was the first Republican to announce my support for the carefully constructed language inserted by the Armed Services Committee that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I just do not understand why we can’t proceed along a path that will bring us to success and that will allow us to get the 60 votes to proceed and I am willing to be one of those 60 votes. I thought we were extremely close to getting a reasonable agreement yesterday that would allow us to proceed,” she added. “I think there was such a clear path for us to be able to get this bill done and I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics. We should be able to do better,” she concluded. But Reid had made it clear that despite what he believes is a good faith effort by Collins to negotiate, the time has come to call a vote, come what may. “It’s clear that Republicans, led by a few of them, don’t want to have a vote on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. They’re all doing what they can to stand in the way of this bill,” Reid said. The vote on proceeding to debate on the annual defense authorization bill started just after 3:30pm. If the bill does not pass this year, it would be the first time that has happened in 48 years. And if the effort to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy fails, it could be years before it ever comes up again, since Republicans will gain control of the House of Representatives next month. UPDATE: Senate Republicans ultimately blocked the bill at the procedural vote this afternoon. Democrats needed 60 votes to start debate on the bill, but fell short by a count of 57-40. In a surprise move, Sen. Susan Collins voted in favor of the bill and the repeal. After her floor speech today in which she said she was “perplexed and frustrated” by Sen. Reid’s decision to call a vote this afternoon, it had been expected that she would vote against the bill, but she ultimately backed the effort. However, all other Republicans including Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown voted against the bill, as did newly-elected Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

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