Politics

Lieberman introduces free-standing bill to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Add one more layer of drama to the debate over “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal.

After another failed cloture vote on a defense spending bill that includes a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” Thursday, Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman announced he will introduce a free standing bill to repeal the measure that keeps gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to put it to a vote before the end of the lame duck session.

Despite what looked to be an agreement between Lieberman, Reid and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins to proceed on the defense bill after the Senate had secured a tax cut extension, Reid abruptly filed for cloture on the bill Thursday afternoon anyway. To little surprise, it failed to attract the Republican support needed to pass.

Collins told reporters just the night before that she and Reid had discussed a possible deal in which moderate Republicans would agree to vote for “don’t ask, don’t tell” if the Senate dealt first with the an extension of the Bush-era tax rates. The compromise appeared to be going smoothly when Reid announced that he was postponing a vote on the defense bill that was scheduled that night.

But any deal the two may have had utterly fell apart Thursday when Reid announced the cloture vote.

While Reid was on the Senate floor announcing his decision, Collins burst into the room just after he finished saying that he meant no disrespect to the senator from Maine for his decision.

“As soon as I found out he was speaking I rushed to the floor,” Collins said and then asked if it were true that Reid was really filing for cloture.

The majority leader said it was.

Collins looked crushed.

“I think that is so unfortunate,” Collins said. “I want to vote to proceed to this bill. I just do not understand why we can’t proceed along a path that will bring us to success and will allow us to get the 60 votes.”

Collins blamed Reid for blowing any chance to get the bill passed.

Reid blamed Republicans for holding true to their commitment that they would not vote for anything until Democrats met their demands on the Bush tax cut extension.

“I have bent over backwards to find a way to get this bill done,” he said.  “But it is clear that Republicans – led by a couple of Senators who simply do not want to have a vote on repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – are doing everything they can to stand in the way.”

“In my effort to get this done, I don’t know how I could have been more reasonable,” he added.