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September 22nd, 2010
Defense Bill Containing D.R.E.A.M. Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal

The Senate on Tuesday dealt a significant blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to repeal the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

In a 56-43 vote, Senate Democratic leaders fell short of the 60 votes they needed to proceed to the 2011 defense authorization bill, which included language to repeal the Clinton-era “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Every Senate Republican present and three Democrats voted to block debate on the bill.

Republicans objected to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) plan to hold votes on several amendments to the bill that reflected Democratic priorities, including an immigration measure seen as boosting Reid’s own reelection campaign.

Reid argued that both parties have allowed non-defense-related amendments to be considered on past authorization bills.
He singled out Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, whom Reid said had offered amendments unrelated to the military.

McCain, who led the GOP filibuster, blamed Reid for the standoff. He mentioned the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” language and the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants if those children serve in the military or attend college.

Reid had pledged to bring up the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense bill.

McCain said the move was a “blatant and cynical attempt to galvanize the Hispanic vote” and to “energize the gay and lesbian vote, in the case of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ”


“Obviously, we need a defense authorization bill. We need one very badly, and I hope that at some point we’ll address it,” McCain said at a Capitol Hill press conference.


Gay-rights advocates expressed disappointment with the vote, which they saw as critical to winning repeal. Republicans are expected to make significant gains in, and possibly win control of, the next Congress, and it is unclear whether they will take up a matter that has been a campaign issue for Obama.


The Pentagon is in the midst of conducting a review on the implementation of repeal and is surveying members of the armed forces on the issue.


Under language included in the defense bill, repeal would not be implemented until the Pentagon finishes its review of how it would affect the military.


Pressure to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” could also come from the judiciary. In September, a federal judge in California declared that the ban on gays serving openly in the military was unconstitutional.


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he did not think “anybody in the country is going to hold it against us [Republicans] for objecting to the way they’re doing business with the defense bill.” 


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