The vote on the bill itself will come at 3 p.m., but that’s a formality. The roll: Six Republicans — Brown, Collins, Kirk(!), Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich — joined 57 Democrats to push it through. (Manchin wimped out by skipping the vote on both this bill and the DREAM Act.) Last week, on the DADT amendment attached to the larger defense bill, Collins was the only Republican to vote yes; Brown and Murkowski, you’ll recall, cited procedural objections to voting on DADT before deals were reached on tax cuts and funding the government, but now that those matters have been addressed (more or less), they were free to pass this one. Kirk’s vote is a surprise just because he hasn’t been in the mix publicly among wavering fencesitters, but as a Republican from a blue state he obviously has to bank moderate cred and as a Navy intel officer his vote carries a bit of extra significance. As for Snowe, given the certainty of a serious primary challenge from conservatives, either she’s awfully principled on supporting DADT or awfully confident about beating back the tea partiers in 2012.
I support the move, but if you don’t, look at it this way: As Gates has often said, if it didn’t happen here it probably would have happened in the courts. Civilian control of the military is one thing, judicial control is something else, so the fact that repeal now wears a democratic halo will hopefully make it more tolerable to skeptics inside the branches. For your enjoyment (or irritation), via Think Progress, here’s video of a very peevish Maverick grumbling in his floor speech today about liberal civilians from coast to coast high-fiving over this. True enough, but it ain’t just liberals — support for repeal is upwards of 80 percent in some polls — and it ain’t just civilians. Exit quotation via another Republican senator from Arizona, cited today on the floor by Harry Reid: “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.”
Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.
Update: As expected, the final bill passes easily, 65-31. I don’t have the roll yet, but someone must have switched from no on cloture to yes on the final bill because Manchin was the only Democrat who missed the earlier vote. Stand by for the tally.
Update: The roll’s not available yet but the word on Twitter is that Ensign and Burr were the Republicans who switched. Manchin missed this vote too, apparently.