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Senate Republicans Block ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

US Army Patrols Pashtun Villages South of Kandahar
File photo by Getty Images

Senate Republicans blocked White House-backed legislation Thursday afternoon that would have repealed the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and allowed gay and lesbian troops to serve openly.

The 57-40 test vote was three shy of the 60 needed to advance.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine joined most Senate Democrats in voting to repeal, while new Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia voted against the move.

Three senators didn’t vote, including Republicans Sam Brownback and John Cornyn. Democrat Blanche Lincoln was at the dentist and missed the vote by three minutes, Sen. Joe Lieberman said.

In a news conference after the vote, Lieberman, Collins and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., pledged to reintroduce the legislation on its own in the remaining days of the lame-duck session. It had been packaged in a broader defense policy bill after passing last spring in the House.

Lieberman said that there are more than 60 senators who would support the repeal, but the fact that it was voted on before the tax cuts measure did not sit well with some senators who would otherwise support it.

Senate Republican opposition recently intensified as the result of another unrelated hot-button issue. They vowed to block bills — other than ones to fund the government — until expiring tax cuts were extended for virtually all American taxpayers.

When the new Congress convenes next month, Republicans will control the House of Representatives and have five more seats in the Senate, cutting the Democrats’ hold on the chamber to 53-47.

At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the U.S. military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gay men and women to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret. It was implemented in 1993 under Democratic President Bill Clinton. President Obama vowed to end the policy, but he has faced opposition from Republicans.

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