DADT Repeal Faces Likely GOP Filibuster

The effort to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies faces it’s biggest test yet today in the Senate, and the prospects are not good for advocates of repeal:

The Senate is planning to vote Tuesday on whether to end debate on a $725.7 billion annual defense policy bill, a measure that includes a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which bans gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

The vote is expected to be close but is almost certain to pass if Democrats can break a Republican-led filibuster. The House passed a similar measure in May, and a House-Senate compromise version is expected to pass both chambers after the November midterm elections.

But even if Tuesday’s vote succeeds, Senate aides said Republicans may introduce an amendment this week that would remove the repeal from the defense bill.

President Obama voiced support for repealing “don’t ask” during his 2008 campaign and has since said he would sign the defense bill after certifying an ongoing Pentagon study of how a repeal might affect troop readiness and morale.

Election-year pressures and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s decision to call a vote before the end of the Pentagon review have made it difficult to secure the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster, according to Senate aides and advocates for and against repeal. Attention is focused on a handful of moderate senators, including Susan Collins (R-Maine), George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) and James Webb (D-Va.).

Backers of repeal had hoped to sway Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), but she signaled Monday that she will not support the measure.

Part of the concern that advocates of repeal have is that, given the likely outcome of the elections, this may be the last chance for repeal for some time to come:

Repeal supporters called the vote set for Tuesday a critical moment in the gay rights movement.

“This is the most important vote in the history of the gay civil rights movement,” said Christopher Neff, deputy executive director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara that is dedicated to repealing the ban.

“The simple fact is, after the election there would be reluctance to take on this issue,” Neff said, referring to a possible Republican takeover of Congress. “We’ve lined up the stars. This needs to happen now.”

Absent a last minute deal, however, it looks like DADT repeal is going to fail.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    Technically, what’s being filibustered is a motion to open debate on an amendment to a Defense Authorization Bill which would authorize the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs to repeal DADT so long as they certify that it would have no significant impact on military effectivenes.  But I quibble….

  2. Alex,

    Yea, I know, but trying to explain Senate procedure in a rational manner is, well, just not worth the time sometimes.