December 8, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
BREAKING: Senate may vote today on ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

UPDATE #1: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn. )released a statement on Wednesday asserting that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is working “in good faith” to advance repeal of the military’s gay ban. He added, “It is now more clear than ever that we have 60 or more votes in support of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so it is vitally important to reach agreement on the right process to move forward.”

UPDATE: Statement from R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans: “FYI.  I’ve communicated with twenty Republican Senate offices today.  All were surprised about the announcement for a cloture vote this evening and all were understandably interested to see if the Majority Leader would make room for Republican amendments on the NDAA.  Talk ranges from 7 to 12 up to 15 amendments for our side.  Many offices, including Brown, noted the need to complete the tax relief legislation prior to work on the NDAA.”

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Senate leadership may bring to the floor today major defense legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal if cloture isn’t invoked on four other bills scheduled for a vote, according to informed sources.

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of communications, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could make an attempt to bring to the floor early in the afternoon the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

“It’s completely situational depending on whether or not there is time available on the Senate floor — depending on whether or not those other motions pass their cloture votes,” Sainz said.

Cloture votes are scheduled today on four pieces of legislation: the DREAM Act, an immigration-related bill, legislation to provide compensation to 9-11 workers, a bill that would provide a one-time $250 payment to senior citizens and collective bargaining legislation for firefighters.

If cloture is invoked on any of those four items, Sainz said chances are the Senate wouldn’t move forward with the defense authorization until sometime later during the lame duck session.

According to Sainz, a simple majority would first be needed in the Senate to reconsider the defense authorization bill. When Reid offers the motion to proceed, 60 votes would be required to begin debate on the legislation.

It remains to be seen whether the necessary 60 votes are present to move forward with the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pledged to object to the motion to proceed.

Additionally, all 42 members of the Republican caucus last week signed a letter stating that they would oppose any attempt to move forward with other legislation before addressing a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government and the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. Both legislative items have yet to come to the Senate floor.

Also, many senators have said they would vote in favor of the motion to proceed on the defense authorization bill only under a more open amendment process than what was proposed in September when Senate leadership previously made an attempt to bring the legislation to the floor.

Sources have said Reid has been in negotiations with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to reach an agreement on the amendments that would attract Republican support to move forward.

“The U.S. Senate has a chance to make history with this cloture vote by including openly gay service in the defense bill and finally joining many of our NATO allies in Afghanistan who adopted inclusive policies years ago,” Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said in a statement.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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