They had 60 votes in the bank, with Brown, Collins, and Murkowski all promising to vote yes if they could reach an agreement with Reid on debate time and amendments. He spent a day negotiating with them and then gave up, choosing to ignore their demands and force a vote by bringing the bill to the floor anyway. And it worked! … in Collins’s case. Brown and Murky voted no but she ended up voting yes, even though (a) Reid gave her nothing in return and (b) she pledged last week not to approve any bills until the tax cuts deal is settled. So not only is she exposed as a liar and a chump, she didn’t even get a successful repeal here as a consolation prize. That makes her our official sucker of the day, with Reid a close second for not delaying this vote until after the tax deal is done, when there might be time to satisfy Brown’s and Murkowki’s procedural demands. Take note, gay activists: He’s happy to postpone a vote on DREAM to improve its chances of passing, but when it comes to DADT, the mere gesture of a vote will suffice. No wonder the chair of GOProud is so angry with him.

The final roll: 57-40. Joe Manchin and Mark Kirk voted no too, but their votes would have been irrelevant with Brown, Murky, and Collins all onboard and all other Democrats voting yes. Another not so minor problem for Reid: Blanche Lincoln apparently missed the vote, meaning that it would have failed in this case even had Brown and Murkowski switched to yes.

A key procedural vote on the bill containing a repeal the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell failed Thursday, dealing a final blow to advocates who hoped to overturn the 17-year old ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military during this session of Congress…

The result means that repeal of the ban, enacted in 1993, is unlikely to be changed by Congress anytime soon. The policy is also currently being considered in court proceedings…

In remarks shortly before the vote, Reid blamed Republicans – but not Collins – for blocking the massive defense measure from coming to the floor.

“It’s quite clear that they’re trying to run out the clock,” Reid said of GOP opponents before calling for the vote.

Is this truly the end of DADT? Maybe not: Lieberman just announced that he’ll introduce a standalone bill to repeal it instead of tucking it away inside a larger defense bill. I’m not sure what that’ll achieve, though. Even if Collins and Lincoln sign on, you still have the problem of getting Brown and Murkowski to break their pledge to ignore all other business until after the vote on taxes. Maybe Liebs is thinking that they can delay the vote on his bill until after the tax vote? Brown and Murky could afford to be sticklers about allowing multiple amendments on an omnibus defense bill, but on a targeted bill like Lieberman’s, they might acquiesce. He’s calling their bluff, potentially. Will they cave too? There’s plenty of political cover available to do so: According to Gallup’s latest, the public supports repeal … 67/28.

Update: Even more hope for Lieberman’s bill:

On Manchin, aide says: “I would say that if he was somehow the 60th vote, I do not think he would have voted the way he did”

If that’s true, then Reid doesn’t need Brown and Murky. He needs only one, and then the pressure of being the deciding vote will flip Manchin to yes too.