Why Sen. Susan Collins is blocking vote on 'don't ask, don't tell'
Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate Maine Republican who opposes 'don't ask, don't tell,' says the way Democrats are trying to repeal it is 'unfair.'
Despite a last-minute appeal from pop icon Lady Gaga, two moderate Republican senators said Tuesday morning that they will not break with their party on a key vote that would set the stage for a repeal the Pentagon's "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.Skip to next paragraph
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The Senate was scheduled to vote Tuesday on the $725.7 billion defense authorization bill, which sets annual spending levels for the Pentagon – a process that is particularly crucial in time of war. But the controversy over the current bill is fixed on a bid – tied to the bill's passage – to repeal the President Clinton-era policy that bans openly gay servicemen and women from serving in the military.
Democrats are at least one vote short of the 60 needed to block a GOP filibuster. Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine – the lone Republican to vote to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell in the Senate Armed Services Committee – appeared to be their best prospect.
“It’s the right thing to do. I think it’s only fair" to repeal don't ask, don't tell, said Senator Collins in a floor speech Tuesday. “But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that’s going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments. That, too, is not fair.
Just 42 days before midterm elections that could swing both the House and the Senate, the standoff over a typically must-pass defense authorization bill plays into electoral strategies for both parties.
“The stakes are high and people are acting accordingly,” says Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution specializing in defense policy. “They’re firing up their base and thinking how they can caricature the other side.”
“Some people on the Democratic side are in a hurry to get this done and dare the Republicans to vote against it,” he adds. For Republicans, “it creates the impression that all Washington is concerned about in this crucial moment of war and attempted economic recovery is gays in the military."
[Editor's note: In the original version, this quote was incorrectly attributed to Sen. George Voinovich.]
Maine senators hold firm
That has been evident in the national debate, with pop star Lady Gaga holding a rally in Portland, Maine, Monday calling for the the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.
Despite the rally, however, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine announced in Monday that she, too, will be voting with Republicans to oppose today’s procedural vote, which would bring the defense bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote.