That Washington

Senate Repeals "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." DREAM Act Fails to Win Cloture.

By Josh Feit December 18, 2010

The U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell this afternoon.
By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.

Here's the roll call, which includes GOP Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Ensign (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski, spelled "Burn on Sarah Palin" (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), George Voinovich (R-OH)

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell immediately issued statements on the big deal vote.

Sen. Cantwell issued a statement after the earlier vote today to end cloture (a 63-33 vote), which then sent the bill to the floor for a vote where it was certain to pass. And it did:
The Senate did the right thing today in giving men and women who serve our country the ability to do so without fear of discrimination. This is a victory for U.S. service members across the country and around the world who for more than a decade have been subjected to unnecessary and arbitrary discharge from the military under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. It is a victory for military readiness because it will enable our force to retain volunteers who serve honorably.

On this great day, my thoughts go out to the many over the years who have suffered as a result of this policy, and who were early leaders in trying to change it. Among them are retired U.S. Army Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer of Whidbey Island and Air Force Major Margaret Witt of Spokane. Colonel Cammermeyer won a long battle for reinstatement after she disclosed her sexual orientation and was honorably discharged in 1992, before the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy had gone into effect. In June of 1994 a Seattle federal judge reinstated Cammermeyer, making her one of the few officially accepted openly gay or lesbian service members.

Major Witt was honorably discharged in 2007 from the Air Force under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ She sued to get her job back, and this past September a federal judge in Tacoma, Washington, in a landmark decision, ruled in her favor. That ruling called into question the official justifications for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and added momentum to our efforts here in Congress to repeal this policy. Today, with the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal clearing a key Senate hurdle, patriots such as Major Witt will no longer have to worry whether they can continue serving their country.

Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has a long history of bipartisan support, and that bipartisanship was crucial today. The Senate was clearly swayed by a Pentagon survey of the uniformed services this fall that concluded repeal would not harm military readiness, morale or operations. This is a proud day for President Obama, for our military, and for the many in uniform and in civilian life who have fought to end this discriminatory policy. And it is a proud day for the Senate. Had Congress failed to act, the Pentagon would have been confronted by court rulings requiring immediate repeal of the policy. With final passage assured, our military can now proceed to an orderly implementation of the repeal.

And Sen. Murray gave this speech immediately prior to the vote on final passage:
I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to join me in the effort to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ This policy has failed in its intended goals, it’s done a tremendous disservice to men and women who want nothing more than to defend their country, and it’s time for it to go.”

…repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for our country.  It’s the right thing for our military.  It’s the right thing for Major Witt and the thousands like her.  And…it’s the right thing for people like Rebekah, a young woman from Spokane, Washington who wrote me a letter just a few months ago…. Rebekah told me nothing would make her happier than to be able to graduate this spring and start her journey standing up for our nation. She doesn’t want to feel that she should be ashamed of who she is—and…she shouldn’t have to.” “We need to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that young women like Rebekah won’t stop dreaming of growing up to serve our country.   And so that every man and woman in our armed forces can serve their country openly and with pride.

…we have heard the stories of the lives this policy has ruined, we have heard from top-ranking military officials that it simply doesn’t work, we have heard from servicemembers that they too want it to change. And now it is time for us to act.”“For far too long, men and women with the courage and commitment to serve our nation have been asked to hide the truth about who they are. This is shameful, it’s bad policy, and it needs to end.  I am going to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

In a loss for liberals, though, a vote to pass the DREAM act—which would have created a path to citizenship for young people brought into the country by illegal immigrants who serve in the military or go to college—was filibustered by the GOP, failing to get the 60 votes needed to go to the floor for a vote.

Pramila Jayapal, director of immigrants' rights group OneAmerica issued the following statement:
Today, the U.S. Senate had two opportunities to stand for justice with key votes to move forward the DREAM Act and repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' legislation. The Senate squandered one opportunity and moved the other one forward.

On the cloture vote for the DREAM Act, 55 Senators voted to move the DREAM Act forward, just five votes short of the number needed. Let's not forget, however, that 55 votes is a majority. 90 percent of Democrats and three Republicans stood for justice, for hope, and for children. We are grateful to them for their leadership and for the belief in the future of America.

To the 41 Senators who voted no, we remind you that we will remember this vote. We will continue to organize, making sure that you understand the consequences of your lack of courage today and the fact that your vote was a vote against the future of America.

To the youth around the country whose dreams were held hostage to partisan politics, we salute you for your incredible courage. In the midst of tears, we know you are picking up the pieces and re-committing to continuing to fight for justice and for comprehensive immigration reform that benefits all of America.
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