GOP stops attempt to overturn ‘don’t ask’

Senate fails to pass bill for military policy

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“There simply was no time to complete a bill including repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ if we didn’t start work now,” Mr. Levin said.

Ms. Collins, the lone Republican to vote against the filibuster, was incensed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “prematurely” calling the vote before a deal on GOP amendments could be worked out.

“I am extremely disappointed that the Senate majority leader walked away from negotiations in which we were engaged and which were going well,” she told reporters minutes after the vote. “I’m perplexed and frustrated.”

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, another moderate Maine Republican who occasionally votes with Democrats, said she opposed the measure on the grounds that Democrats rejected GOP amendments to the bill.

“In denying our ability to offer any amendments to this critical authorization bill … the majority has continued to engage in the same, status quo politics that the voters overwhelmingly and resoundingly rejected at the polls just one month ago,” Mrs. Snowe said.

Even as senators were voting, Ms. Collins, Mr. Levin and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who had been working to win Ms. Collins‘ support, huddled at a desk on the Senate floor, trying to come up with a strategy to go forward.

She ended up voting with Democrats, and then turned her attention to trying to persuade fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to join her. Mrs. Murkowski remained a no vote, though Mr. Lieberman said she could be a possible target if they introduce a stand-alone bill, along with Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican.

Three senators were absent for Thursday’s vote: Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Republican Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Cornyn of Texas.

Mrs. Lincoln apologized on the Senate floor for missing the vote. Mr. Lieberman said later the Arkansas Democrat had a dental appointment that ran late.

Mr. Manchin, who only joined the Senate last month, said the policy “probably should be repealed in the near future.” But he justified his no vote by saying that he hasn’t had time to “hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”

“I truly understand that my position will anger those who believe repeal should happen now and for that I sincerely apologize,” he said.

A Pentagon survey of military personnel released this month showed that most troops wouldn’t mind serving alongside gays. The study found that 70 percent of troops surveyed believed that repealing the law would have mixed, positive or no effect, while 30 percent predicted negative consequences.

The survey showed opposition strongest among combat troops, with at least 40 percent saying it was a bad idea. That number climbs to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen have pushed strongly for Congress to repeal the policy, saying that asking service members to lie about themselves went against the integrity of the armed forces.

And 17 years after he led the fight in Congress against gays in the military, former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn said he thinks gays could serve openly without damaging the armed forces’ ability to fight.

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