December 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Senate ‘Don’t Ask’ vote in flux

The decision over whether the Senate will take up “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation today is up in the air as the chamber seems ready to first take on the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had earlier said he was likely to bring up today major defense budget legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, recently said on the Senate floor he would make a decision on what bill would come up next in “a little bit.”

Reid made the comments after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) informed the majority leader on the Senate floor that the tax legislation would be ready in about an hour.

An LGBT rights activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Reid was caught by surprise when McConnell announced that the tax bill would be ready soon.

“Senator Reid was prepared to take up NDAA next and for it to fail largely because of its sequencing before taxes,” the activist said.

The activist said Reid’s decision to bring the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill to the floor next has changed now that moderate Republicans’ last remaining objection to the bill may be resolved.

“Hill sources tell us that the Senate [tax] bill could be done by Monday or Tuesday of next week,” the activist said. “If that happens, the NDAA would follow and Senator [Susan] Collins has represented that she would bring with her a number of other Republicans.”

Reid has been in discussion with Collins and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to reach an agreement that would bring needed Republican support to meet the 60-vote threshold to move forward with the defense authorization bill.

Collins has signaled she would only support moving forward with the defense bill after the tax issue has been resolved and she’s assured a fair amendment process for the legislation once it comes to the floor.

The activist said Reid, Lieberman and Collins are “in discussions on what to do next” and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote still could happen as early as this afternoon.

“The bill is still on life support but funeral plans are off for the time being,” the activist said.

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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