This evening, moments after the Senate failed to invoke cloture and proceed to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — the measure which contains the amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced that they would offer a stand-alone DADT measure. Lieberman also said that he has a commitment from Reid to bring up the bill before the end of the year.
The vote on the National Defense Authorization Act failed after days of negotiations between Collins and Reid on the number of amendments that would be offered under a “reasonable” framework of debate. Talks appeared to break down this afternoon as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the floor without first notifying Collins. Reid addressed the negotiations of the last several days, claiming that Republicans kept changing the goal posts. He had offered Collins 15 amendments — 10 from Republicans and 5 from Democrats — with an hour of debate for each, but she insisted on more time.
Following Reid’s remarks, Collins took to the floor and explained that she felt “perplexed” by Reid’s motion. She claimed that the two had been close to a deal and that he was now reneging on that agreement by filling up the tree, a technique that takes-up all the available slots for amendments on legislation in order to block competing amendments. Her main complaint appeared to be that Republicans would not be able to choose their own “relevant amendments” to the bill, while Reid insisted that both parties had to reach an agreement on “what some of the amendments would be.” During the roll-call, Collins initially voted against cloture but then suddenly changed her vote after talking to Sens. Lieberman and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Unfortunately, she was unable to bring along Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) or other moderate Republicans who had signaled that they would proceed to the measure. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the only Democrat to vote “no,” while Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) missed the vote but announced that she would have voted to proceed to the measure.
Watch a compilation of today’s floor activity:
It’s unclear when the Senate will bring up the stand-alone measure, but Lieberman told reporters that the legislation will mirror the language in the Defense Authorization Bill and could be brought up as soon as today.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) also took to the Senate floor to condemn the Senate’s failure and reiterated his pledge to work through the holidays to pass the bill before the end of the year. “I’m willing to stay through the holidays to debate it as a stand-alone measure,” he said. “The vote that we just had means that we won’t have a debate on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
Greg Sargent explains why Reid brought the measure to the floor:
Reid concluded that even if Collins was sincere in her promise to vote for repeal if given the four days of debate, there was no way to prevent the proceedings from taking longer, the aide says. Reid decided that the cloture vote, the 30 hours of required post-cloture debate, and procedural tricks mounted by conservative Senators who adamantly oppose repeal would have dragged the process on far longer.
“It would have been much more than four days,” the aide says. “Her suggestions were flat out unworkable given how the Senate really operates. You can talk about four days until the cows come home. That has very little meaning for Coburn and DeMint and others who have become very skilled at grinding this place to a halt.”
,Lieberman tweets on the stand-alone measure:
@JoeLieberman: Reid told me he will “Rule14″ the free-standing #DADT repeal so it skips cmte and can come directly to the Senate floor.
,Statement from the White House:
A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. [...] While today’s vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session.