WASHINGTON — US Republicans blocked a last-ditch effort in the Senate to lift the military's ban on openly gay troops on Thursday, dealing a major blow to gay rights groups and making it unlikely Congress could repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law any time soon.
The 57-40 vote fell three short of the 60 needed in the 100-member chamber to overcome procedural hurdles to lift the 17-year-old ban. The rejection was a defeat for President Barack Obama, who campaigned promising to overturn the law and later called it one of his top legislative priorities for the year. But in the end, the White House did little to push the legislation, focusing its influence instead on tax cuts and a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Repeal advocates said the fight was not over, but US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to have little appetite to return to the subject with only a week left in the post-election session and other major legislation pending.
"The other side may feel passionately that our military should sanction discrimination based on sexual orientation, but they are clearly in the minority," Reid, a Democrat, said of Republicans. "And they have run out of excuses."