Republicans block bill to lift military gay ban

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked
legislation that would have repealed the law banning gays from
serving openly in the military.

The partisan vote was a defeat for Senate Democrats and gay
rights advocates, who saw the bill as their last chance before
November's elections to overturn the law known as “don't ask,
don't tell.”

With the 56-43 vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed
to advance the legislation. It also would have authorized $726
billion in defense spending including a pay raise for troops.

Senate Democrats attached the repeal provision to the defense
bill in the hopes that Republicans would hesitate to vote against
legislation that included popular defense programs. But GOP
legislators opposed the bill anyway, thwarting a key part of the
Democrats' legislative agenda.  

Now, gay rights advocates say they worry they have lost a
crucial opportunity to change the law. If Democrats lose seats in
the upcoming elections this fall, repealing the ban could prove
even more difficult – if not impossible – next year.

“The whole thing is a political train wreck,” said Richard
Socarides, a former White House adviser on gay rights during the
Clinton administration.

Socarides said President Barack Obama “badly miscalculated”
the Pentagon's support for repeal, while Democrats made only a
“token effort” to advance the bill.

“If it was a priority for the Democratic leadership, they would
get a clean vote on this,” he said.

Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas
sided with Republicans to block the bill. Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted against the measure as a procedural
tactic. Under Senate rules, casting his vote with the majority of
the Senate enables him to revive the bill at a later date if he
wants.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine had been seen as the
crucial 60th vote because she supports overturning the military
ban. But Collins agreed with her GOP colleagues that Republicans
weren't given sufficient chance to offer amendments.

Reid allowed Republicans the opportunity to offer only one
amendment to address GOP objections on the military's policy on
gays.

Collins said she planned to vote against advancing the bill
unless Democrats agreed to extend debate so that her colleagues
could weigh in on other issues.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, said the senator would be
willing to allow more debate on the bill after the November
elections.

“Today's vote isn't about arcane Senate procedures,” Manley
said. “It's about a GOP's pattern of obstructing debate on
policies important to the American people.”

An estimated 13,000 people have been discharged under the law
since its inception in 1993. Although most dismissals have resulted
from gay service members outing themselves, gay rights' groups say
it has been used by vindictive co-workers to drum out troops who
never made their sexuality an issue.
    
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Categories: KUSI