The U.S. Senate dashed the hopes of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal supporters on Tuesday when a vote to proceed on major defense legislation containing repeal language failed, 56-43.
A unified GOP caucus — in addition to Democratic Arkansas Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln — comprised the “no” votes that defeated a cloture vote on the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed his vote to “no” in a procedural move so he could bring the bill up at a later time.
The votes of 60 senators were necessary to end Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) filibuster and move forward with the legislation.
Advocacy groups working on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bemoaned the failure of reaching cloture in statements following the vote.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the inability to invoke cloture is “a failure of leadership on the part of those who have been duly elected to serve this nation and to put the best interests of the country ahead of partisan politics.”
“The Senate could learn a good lesson from those who serve in uniform and who stand to benefit from proceeding to debate on this bill — serving this country means putting politics aside and getting the job done,” he said. “It is simply inexcusable that this vote failed today.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the vote was “a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law.”
“We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections,” Sarvis said. “Let’s be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay.”
Sarvis called on the Senate to take up the defense authorization bill again in December when he said “cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on the U.S. Justice Department not to appeal a recent California federal court decision against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the wake of the vote.
“We still have a fighting chance to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] through congressional action but in the meantime, the best interests of our men and women in uniform — as well as the country — are served by doing everything we can do to get rid of this discriminatory law,” Solmonese said. “We expect the Justice Department to recognize the overwhelming evidence that proves [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] is unconstitutional.”