'Don't ask, don't tell' vote fails: Reaction
A Senate vote to move forward with debate on a bill ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy failed Thursday, delivering a near-fatal blow to efforts to allow gays to serve openly in military. Here's reaction from leaders and groups for and against the ban:
"I am extremely disappointed that yet another filibuster has prevented the Senate from moving forward with the National Defense Authorization Act. Despite having the bipartisan support of a clear majority of Senators, a minority of Senators are standing in the way of the funding upon which our troops, veterans and military families depend. This annual bill has been enacted each of the past 48 years, and our armed forces deserve nothing less this year.
"A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. A great majority of the American people agree. This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality.
"I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, and Senators Lieberman and Collins for all the work they have done on this bill. While today's vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"The failure of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal, as part of the Defense Authorization bill, on a procedural vote in the Senate is a serious disappointment to the many who have worked so hard to close the door on a fundamental unfairness.
"Since the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has broad support among Senators, our troops, and the American people, it is my hope that that the Senate will move forward with an alternative legislative method. The bipartisan proposal from Senators Lieberman and Collins provides renewed hope that progress is still possible in the Senate; an army of allies stands ready in the House to pass a standalone repeal of the discriminatory policy once the Senate acts.
"Moving forward to end the days of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will honor the service and sacrifice of all who dedicate their lives to protecting the American people."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich):
"I am deeply disappointed in today's vote. I strongly supported Sen. Reid's decision to attempt to bring the National Defense Authorization Act to the floor today, after months and months of waiting in hopes that Republicans would end their filibuster of the bill. Simply put, he could not submit to the Republican demand that we complete legislation on taxes and funding the government if we had any hopes of enacting an Authorization Act that includes repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in this Congress.
"The amendment process Republicans had demanded, and the need to compress a House-Senate conference process that normally takes months into a few days, in addition to the need for both the House and Senate to pass the result of that conference, meant that there simply was no time to complete a bill including repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" if we didn't start work now. Under the Senate rules, if we broke the filibuster today, we would have to wait 30 hours before we could proceed to the bill, and then two days more before we could invoke cloture on the bill itself, and then another 30 hours before we could vote on final passage. When you add several days for the agreed upon amendment process, we needed to begin now if we had any hope of finishing a bill including "don't ask, don't tell" repeal language in time to reach agreement with the House and then pass the agreed-to bill in both the House and the Senate before the end of this Congress.
"I am 100 percent supportive of the stand-alone bill to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" that Sens. Lieberman and Collins have now proposed, and indeed I will co-sponsor that legislation. It is time for this discriminatory policy to end, and I am willing to pursue any effective legislative path that could lead to that result. The vote against bringing this bill to the Senate floor was a disservice to those who bear all the burdens of military service, and one more - the burden of constant anxiety that, just because of their sexual orientation, the nation that they love and want to serve may deny them the chance to do so.
"I also believe that it is vitally important to our national security to pass a Defense Authorization Act. I will continue to explore paths that could lead to that goal, though given the limited amount of time left in this Congress, that may be too high a mountain to climb."
Sen. Clarie McCaskill (D-Mo.), in comments to reporters after the vote:
"I think there was maybe a breakdown over the terminology between relevant and crazy. This is what happens when your Republican Party decides that reauthorizing everything we need to do for our military is less important than making sure you get that tax break from everybody's second million, and that's exactly what's happened now." ...
"A tax cut for multimillionaires is more important than pay raises for our military? I can't believe the American people are going to stand by and not get angry about this. We ought to be able to reauthorize our defense spending for the year. there are a lot of people all over the world right now in our military who are scratching their heads and saying, what in the world happened to the Republican Party that's always prided itself on supporting our military."
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), in comments to reporters after the vote:
"This is a political exercise that I think is unworthy of the Senate, quite frankly. You're not going to get our cooperation when you take these bills and you bring them up with no real certainty as to how we can participate in the debate and how many amendments we can offer. This is a check the box vote and there you are."
"I worry about what the courts may do. I think Secretary [Robert M.] Gates is right to be worried about courts requiring compliance over night."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), in comments to reporters after the vote:
"I support the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell," and there are a lot of complications with the defense authorization bill and what we needed was a reasonable process with reasonable amendments. I think you saw that we didn't get that here." ...
"We are going to that tax bill right now. Why the majority leader could not have allowed for a timing that would help to facilitate greater support for this, allow for a reasonable amendment process, that is not too much to ask, but when you get slammed down and you say you've got a defense authorization bill that typically takes 10, 11 days and we're not going to allow for a reasonable process of amendments."
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solomonese:
"There has always been strong support in the Senate for repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and in recent days it's become clear that support reaches far beyond 60 votes. The issue has been the procedure by which the defense bill would be considered and given that no agreement was in place before today's vote on the motion to proceed, that effort was doomed to failure.
"Thankfully a bipartisan group of Senators has committed to finding an alternative method of achieving repeal. We encourage all Senators to expeditiously take up this bill and pass it quickly so that the military has the power to implement a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
"The fight for open service has had many twists and turns but until 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is left in the dustbin of history we will never give up the fight."
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:
"Today a band of Senators voted to continue the discrimination against gay and lesbian service members who are fighting and dying for our country. This continued delay is an outrage against these service members and the more than 14,000 who have already lost their jobs under this discriminatory law.
"History will hold these senators accountable and so will many of their constituents. There will be no place for these Senators to hide. The Senate and the President must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck. While difficult, realistic options still exist for advocates and Senators to move repeal this year.
"We need to keep pushing as the Senate is scheduled to break for holiday vacation. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, 'If not now, when?'"
Richard Soccarides, a former gay rights adviser to Bill Clinton:
"While there is certainly plenty of blame to go around, fundamentally it was the decision made at the White House to push this into 2010 and then into the lame duck that doomed it. It was a lack of will as much as a lack of votes that doomed this today.
"Rest assured, we will not have Don't Ask, Don't Tell around for long anyway. Either the federal courts or the President or both will have to see to that."
OutServe Executive Director J.D. Smith:
"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 nothing short of turning their backs on the people that defend this country.
"The men and women of our military have been left out to dry. The troops, not these senators, will have to live with the consequences. And the ongoing court cases will continue to sow confusion among the ranks.
"The Senators that hid behind 'procedure' chose to put politics over the lives of the troops. These senators should be ashamed."
Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson:
"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.
"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."
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey:
"The Senate's failure to allow a vote on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal is a huge disgrace and disservice to our country. Senators had an opportunity -- and an obligation -- to move toward ending an outdated, unnecessary and costly policy that discriminates against courageous and qualified people willing to risk their lives by serving in the military. How many more personal and painful stories of discrimination must these lawmakers hear before they act to end this harmful policy? How many more exhaustive Pentagon studies need to be done that affirm it's time to end the ban? Three-quarters of Americans say 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed, as do top military leaders. People from every background, every faith, every community across the country know that qualified, patriotic Americans willing to risk their lives by serving in the military should be able to do so, free of discrimination.
"Despite today's obstructionism by a few politicians, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will end. We will continue to work to ensure all qualified Americans who wish to serve their country openly and freely are able to do so. We must, because the lives and livelihoods of thousands of dedicated service members hang in the balance."
Center for American Progress Senior Vice President Winnie Stachelberg:
"The U.S. Senate voted this afternoon to not proceed to debate the 2011 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). This was a vote against our national security and the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also a step backward in efforts to repeal DADT (the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy), which Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen have urged the Senate to do in the current lame duck session.
"The Center for American Progress strongly urges the Senate to pursue other legislative options including a stand-alone bill calling for DADT's repeal in the remaining days of the current session of Congress. A growing number of senators from both parties have recently indicated they support repealing DADT. They agree that the policy is ineffective, discriminatory, and costly. It is time for it to be erased from our nation's laws."
People for the American Way President Michael B. Keegan:
"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 Sec. 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."
Staff writer Phil Rucker contributed to this report.
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