U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid immediately after a Senate vote fell short of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics,” Collins said on the Senate floor. “We should be able to do better and (Sen. Joe Lieberman) and I have been bargaining in good faith with the majority leader. I just want to say that I’m perplexed as to what has happened and why we’re not going forward in a constructive way that would lead to success.”

Collins and Lieberman had been negotiating with Reid to allow amendments to the defense bill that included repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military. Reid said no, and called the vote earlier than expected.

“It seems evident to me that unfortunately, the majority leader is not pursuing the path that we discussed or at least that’s my interpretation that’s what he’s saying,” she said on the floor before the vote.

In a news conference after the failed vote, Collins and Lieberman said they would co-sponsor a stand-alone bill for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“We’ve had extensive discussions with our colleagues and I think as long as the priority items — the tax relief and funding of government — have been completed, I believe that the votes are there,” Collins said. “This issue is one that we are going to have to deal with sooner or later.”

Gay rights lobbyists said Thursday that they supported Collins’ action on the bill.

“Sen. Collins has definitely operated in good faith over the last few days in order to find a solution to this issue,” Fred Sainz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview. “I think she is dedicated to the repeal of this insidious law and I think the fact that she is willing to sponsor a stand-alone bill, I think is obvious evidence of that commitment.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe voted against proceeding with the defense bill, but released a statement saying she still had not finished reviewing the recently released military study on the impact of repealing the 17-year-old policy.

“My vote today against cloture was on the basis that the majority prohibited any amendments from being offered to the $725 billion Defense Authorization bill; it did not relate to the provision incorporated in the underlying legislation to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” she said in the statement. 

— Rebekah Metzler, MaineToday Media State House Writer