From Carrie Dann and Ken Strickland
Last week, when the Senate failed to move forward on a bill that would have phased out the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, it looked like the end of the road for advocates of repeal.
But on Saturday, a GOP filibuster of the legislation was broken by a wider-than-anticipated margin, with six Republicans joining 57 Democrats to push forward a bill to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military.
Backers of the repeal pulled off a last-minute legislative maneuver to separate the repeal from a larger Defense Authorization bill, which contained other controversial items that drew GOP criticism. That standalone bill passed the House last week and won the approval of GOP holdouts in the Senate who had objected to Democrats’ handling of debate over the defense funding measure.
Ultimately, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Mark Kirk of Illinois voted for repeal.
One Democrat who opposes repeal of the ban, newly-elected Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, did not vote on Saturday.
Thirty-three Republicans opposed the motion to move forward on the bill.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading opponent of repeal, warned shortly before the vote that “elites” would celebrate the end of “DADT” without understanding its consequences for the armed forces.
“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” he said. “And we could possibly – and probably – as the Commandant of the Marine Corps said … harm the battle effectiveness that is so vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.
The full repeal is now expected to easily pass the Senate this afternoon. It will then have to be “certified” by the Pentagon and the White House before going into effect.