Yesterday Senate Democrats pushing for a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law fell short of the 60 votes needed to move ahead debate on the defense budget bill, putting the future of a repeal in doubt. They hope to bring the issue up again after the November elections, if they can convince at least one Republican to come across the aisle and vote with their caucus.
But the 56-43 vote Tuesday (one Republican Senator was absent) revealed another stumbling block for repeal supporters. To get to 60 votes, they'll need to win back two Democratic senators from Arkansas as well.
In a press release after the vote Sen. Blanche Lincoln said she voted against allowing the bill to advance "because we all need to listen to our constituents and provide time to fully debate and consider the issues they care about." she also said that she'd support a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," but not as part of an "election year political agenda."
Her in-state counterpart, Sen. Mark Pryor,did not address "don't ask, don't tell" in his post-vote statement but said that "Arkansans are tired of the games being played in Washington, and so am I. This bill deserves serious debate focused on what is best for our national security and our troops. Instead, it became a political football and because of that, I voted not to proceed with the bill.”
Lincoln faces a tough re-election battle in November, and Pryor had been marked by gay rights groups as a potential swing vote in the debate. Without both changing their votes to back the Democratic majority, any movement forward on the measure is unlikely.
The other no vote from the Democrats came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. But that was simply a procedural move allowing him to reopen the issue at a future date, and Reid has publicly expressed his support for advancing the legislation and overturning "don't ask, don't tell."