By a vote of 57 to 40 this afternoon, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the defense-authorization bill that contains the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Voting in favor were all the Democrats (except Blanche Lincoln, who didn’t vote for some reason) and West Virginia’s recently elected Joe Manchin, who will probably do this type of thing a lot. Voting to maintain the filibuster was every Republican except for Maine’s Susan Collins. A number of Republicans, including Collins, Scott Brown, and Lisa Murkowski, had expressed support for repealing DADT but demanded sufficient time to debate and amend the bill. Apparently, only Collins was satisfied, although just barely.
“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,” Collins said on the Senate floor just before the vote. So why did Reid decide to move up the vote if he didn’t have the support the bill required? According to a Senate aide who spoke to the Plum Line, Reid felt that even if he allowed for the four days of debate that Collins insisted upon, other Republican DADT-friendly senators would have dragged out and obstructed the proceedings until there was no time left in the lame-duck session. Regardless of what he thought might have happened, going ahead with the vote tonight pretty much doomed it from the start.
But all hope is not lost. Joe Lieberman, the bill’s most dogged proponent, still insists the votes are there for repeal and plans to introduce a stand-alone DADT bill. Will the handful of vital Republican moderates be sufficiently appeased by whatever process is used this time around? Will Republicans be less obstruction-y than Reid predicted and allow it to get done in time? And if the Senate fails to pass the bill, will the courts just strike down DADT for good themselves? We’re asking, but only time will tell.