Leahy ‘Very Disappointed’ Over GOP Filibuster

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s very disappointed that Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on whether gay people can serve openly in the military. The GOP filibuster leaves the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy in effect for the foreseeable future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The plan under consideration gives President Obama the authority to eliminate the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy after his Administration conducts an internal study to measure how this change would affect the military.   

It’s likely that the policy would be repealed because the President has been a strong critic of "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell."

The Democrats’ effort to overcome the filibuster failed by four votes and the outlook for the plan for the rest of the 2010 session is very uncertain.

 Senator Patrick Leahy says changing the policy is a matter of common sense.

(Leahy) "It makes no sense, when you have people who want to serve their country, willing to put their lives on the line for their country, often times bring great skills and we’ll say, ‘well you can’t come here because you’re gay or lesbian’… Let’s be realistic, we’re about the only major country in the world that has this kind of a restriction."

(Kinzel) Some backers of the current ban say that repealing it will hurt morale in the military. Leahy doesn’t buy this argument:

(Leahy) "If it’s going to be bad for the military I cannot believe that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have come before the Congress and say ‘get rid of this policy’."

(Kinzel) Leahy says Senate GOP leaders have used the filibuster rule over 100 times to block consideration of important legislation.  He says the Senate Rules committee needs to look at ways to prevent the "misuse" of this procedure in the future:

(Leahy) "Vote yes or vote no, but this constant voting for a filibuster – it just allows somebody to go back home and say basically they voted maybe I didn’t get elected to the senate to vote ‘maybe’ I got elected to the Senate to vote ‘yes or no’."

(Kinzel) The campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Len Britton said their candidate was in Washington for a series of meetings and would not be available for comment.

They added that Britton would support efforts to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and he hoped that a new open policy could be phased in by applying it to one branch of the military at a time.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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