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White House

Ray of Hope for Repeal of Military's Gay Ban

Advocates of ending "don't ask, don't tell" hanging on to up-or down vote.

A woman wears a 'REPEAL DON'T ASK DON'T TELL' T-shirt as she participates in a rally in support of a repeal of the 'Don t Ask, Don t Tell' policy on March 18, 2010 at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

photo of Marc Ambinder
December 10, 2010

Advocates of ending the ban on gays openly serving in the military believe that a stand-alone proposal to repeal the law has a small but not insignificant chance of passing before the lame-duck session ends. 

The repeal measure's co-sponsors, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., are trying to persuade Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a repeal supporter, to add her name to the effort. Such a move, the co-sponsors believe, would attract the backing of several other Republicans who have said they think the ban should end.

Timing remains the biggest obstacle. Republicans still don't want to vote on anything until the tax-cut deal they worked out with the White House is passed by the Senate, which could take as long as a week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn't said when he would take up the repeal measure, given that the chamber has at least three other pieces of business--the New START pact, the Dream Act, and the continuing resolution funding the government--to resolve before adjournment. 

 

Last night, President Obama strongly urged the Senate to repeal the ban before the end of the lame-duck session, a point that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated this morning in a session with reporters. 

Advocates hope that the bill's brevity--five pages--will reduce the number of procedural objections to it. In the past week, five senators who previously opposed repeal said that the Pentagon working group's report had changed their minds, bringing to 62 the number of senators who have gone on record in favor of ending the ban. 

Still, Reid would have to allocate at least 60 hours to debate the bill because of expected Republican objections. His actions are being closely  watched; if Reid comes up with a reasonable way to schedule the bill, it has a decent chance of passing.

If the Senate passes a stand-alone bill, the House would have to pass the same measure to avoid other procedural roadblocks.

A few other options are being considered, including a scenario in which the House takes up the bill first, and then sends it to the Senate, where Reid would deem it a matter of importance--a privileged motion--and begin debate. Or, Reid could add it to another piece of legislation that's being considered and send it back to the House, which can use the privileged-motion procedure to debate and pass it.

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