Republicans were successful in their efforts Tuesday to block debate on a defense authorization bill that would have repealed both the law prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military and the law banning abortion on military bases.
Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed for cloture as all members of the GOP caucus held together, and two Arkansas Democrats, Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, also crossed party lines to join the Republican-led filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also voted against the bill, but only as a procedural tactic. Under the Senate rules, this gives him the opportunity to bring up the matter at a later time. It is anticipated that Reid will reintroduce the measure sometime during the Congressional lame-duck session in December.
The $726 billion Defense Authorization Bill has one amendment, originally sponsored by Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), that strikes a section of the U.S. Code, which has prohibited Department of Defense facilities from being used to perform abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother.
Top conservative groups including the Family Research Council (FRC), the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, and the American Family Association are warning that the FY2011 Defense Authorization bill, if passed, would “turn every U.S. military hospital in the world into an abortion clinic.”
FRC president Tony Perkins noted that, because it is not an appropriations bill, the controversial authorization measure is “not necessary to fund our military.”
Also at stake was the 1993 law banning homosexuals from military service, a law that is commonly, but erroneously identified as the Pentagon policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) led the charge to block the repeal of the 1993 law and DADT.
Heavy pressure was put on Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to buck the GOP filibuster and vote for cloture. However Collins, who supports a repeal of the 1993 law, and voted for it in committee, said she would not help advance the bill unless Reid would allow the GOP to submit their own amendments, adding they “deserve to have a civil, fair and open debate.”
“I will defend the right of my colleagues to offer amendments on this issue, and other issues that are being brought up in connection with the defense authorization bill,” Collins said on the Senate floor.
Snowe expressed similar reservations, but added that since DADT had been in place for 17 years, Congress deserved a chance to review the Defense Department’s upcoming December report on the issue first.
Earlier today, Marine Gen. James Amos, President Obama’s nominee to replace Gen. James Conway as Marine Corps Commandant, testified before the Senate that most Marines oppose repeal of DADT.
“I’ve heard at the Marine bases and the Marine input for the online survey has been predominantly negative,” Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee.