Senate Blocks DADT Repeal

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The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster.

Two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas, voted with Republicans to block the bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted no, a procedural move so he can bring the cloture motion back to the floor later.

DADT was one of several sticking points of the defense authorization bill, which must pass in order to fund the military.

Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME), argued that passing repeal now would undermine the Defense Department’s review of the policy, which won’t be completed until December.The language in the bill provides that DADT wouldn’t be repealed until 60 days after the review is complete and the plan for repeal is signed off on by the president, defense secretary and joint chiefs of staff.

[TPM DOCUMENTS: The Army’s DADT Comic Book]

The White House said today it supports the repeal language.

“Such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions,” the statement reads.

After the vote, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, “I don’t think this is the end” of DADT repeal.

It was the first time senators have ever filibustered the beginning of debate on a defense authorization bill, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a supporter of repeal, told reporters.

“It is a sad day when a Defense Authorization bill is filibustered to the point where we can’t even debate that bill,” Levin said.

“Today’s Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law. We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections,” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network president Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. Sarvis called for the Senate to vote on repeal again in December, “when cooler heads and common sense” will prevail.

Some senators said they would vote to block the bill because Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t allowing enough amendments to the bill. There were also objections to the DREAM Act, which would give young immigrants a path to citizenship.

Lady Gaga made political headlines this week after speaking out in favor of repeal. She traveled to Portland, Maine, yesterday, to hold a rally urging Sens. Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to vote for repeal.

Both Snowe and Collins voted against beginning debate.

Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni

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