After negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans apparently broke down today, the Senate GOP just blocked a cloture vote on the defense spending bill that includes a repeal of the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the focus of the negotiations, voted in favor of cloture while Republican Sens. Scott Brown (MA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voted no. Freshly-elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also voted no.
Three Senators missed the vote: Sam Brownback (R-KS), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Brownback and Lincoln are both leaving the Senate after the lame duck -- Brownback was elected governor of Kansas, and Lincoln went down in defeat to Sen.-elect John Boozman (R).
The final vote was 57 for cloture, 40 against it, just shy of the 60 Democrats needed.
The bill could theoretically be brought up again before the end of the lame duck session, but a Democratic leadership aide tells TPM that negotiations are basically at an impasse. Collins had said she wanted time to debate and amendments, and apparently she got what she wanted. But Republicans like Brown and Murkowski who also wanted time to debate the bill apparently were not satsified.
"I don't know what more we can do," the aide told TPM.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: 9 Years At War In Afghanistan]
With the failure to find cloture, those hoping for an end to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy before Congressional numbers shift in favor of the Republicans next year are likely not going to get their wish. President Obama and many Democrats had committed to repealing the ban this year, but it looks like a truncated legislative schedule in the lame duck and Republican promises to block everything until tax cuts were passed put the future of a repeal this year on extremely thin ice -- and that ice just cracked.
During the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent out a statement condemning the no votes from Republicans like Murkowski and Collins. He said that the choice today was simple: if you favor extending the right to serve openly to gay and lesbian Americans, vote yes.
Reid voted for cloture.
"There is simply no evidence and no justification - legal, military or otherwise - for keeping this policy in place," Reid said. "There is no reason to keep American citizens from fighting for the country they love because of whom they love."
[TPM SLIDESHOW: A Salute To America's Veterans]
After the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who was among the Democratic majority voting in favor of cloture, called the Republican-led blockage a "procedural slap in the face."