The window on an important promise by President Barack Obama may have just closed. From the Associated Press:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked legislation that would have repealed the law banning gays from serving openly in the military.
The partisan vote was a defeat for Senate Democrats and gay rights advocates, who saw the bill as their last chance before November’s elections to overturn the law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
With the 56-43 vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. It also would have authorized $726 billion in defense spending including a pay raise for troops.
Senate Democrats attached the repeal provision to the defense bill in the hopes that Republicans would hesitate to vote against legislation that included popular defense programs. But GOP legislators opposed the bill anyway, thwarting a key part of the Democrats’ legislative agenda.
Now, gay rights advocates say they worry they have lost a crucial opportunity to change the law. If Democrats lose seats in the upcoming elections this fall, repealing the ban could prove even more difficult — if not impossible — next year.
“The whole thing is a political train wreck,” said Richard Socarides, a former White House adviser on gay rights during the Clinton administration.
Socarides said President Barack Obama “badly miscalculated” the Pentagon’s support for repeal, while Democrats made only a “token effort” to advance the bill.
“If it was a priority for the Democratic leadership, they would get a clean vote on this,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that if the defense bill doesn’t move today, he will bring it up in a lame-duck session, following the November elections.
“It’s a matter of timing,” says Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who is openly gay. “This policy should have ended years ago.”
But many repeal supporters are nervous that further delay could weaken their chances. If legislation doesn’t move through the Senate this week, success will be difficult for them to achieve in a post-election lame duck session.
“Anyone who tries to predict what will happen in (a) lame duck (session) has got a lot more courage than I do,” Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday.