Reid Rams Through 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' but Dream Act Fails

NewsMax Saturday, 18 Dec 2010 07:08 AM Article Font Size

WASHINGTON – In a landmark vote for gay rights, Sen. Harry Reid and fellow Democrats in the Senate voted Saturday to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn't take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.

Earlier in the day, though, another Democratic initiative failed. Senate Republicans blocked a bill to grant hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to gain legal status if they enroll in college or join the military.

Sponsors of what they call the Dream Act needed 60 Senate votes for it, but fell five short. The House passed the bill last week. It was a last-ditch effort to enact it before it Republicans take control of the House from Democrats in January.

Immigrant advocates viewed the measure as a step toward providing a path to legal status for up to 12 million illegal immigrants by focusing on the most sympathetic among them first. Critics called it a back-door grant of amnesty that would encourage more illegal immigration.

The failure of the Dream Act was followed by the Senate's 65-31 vote on "don't ask, don't tell." The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.

"It is time to close this chapter in our history," Obama said Saturday in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. "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."

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