The defense bill contains critical military policy as well as a provision that would repeal the ban on openly gay people serving in the military. Reid was scheduled to meet with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Monday afternoon to discuss his plans.
Gay-rights groups view September as a critical month in the Senate for the fate of the defense authorization bill and the provision to repeal “Don't ask, don't tell.” Any action delayed until after the Nov. 2 elections could diminish the chances of repeal for the Clinton-era law.
They applauded Reid's decision to move the bill.
“We applaud the Senate Majority Leader's courage and his statement tonight to bring the defense bill to the floor. Now, we must deliver,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and the executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization dedicated to repealing the ban. “Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September. We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail."
It’s unclear if Republicans will agree to consider the defense bill given the inclusion of the "Don't ask, don't tell" repeal and other controversial provisions. Reid will need 60 votes, including at least one Republican, to move the legislation to the floor.
So far, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has opposed bringing up the defense bill and has threatened a filibuster. McCain opposes several parts of the bill, including the repeal and a provision allowing abortions to be performed in military hospitals as long as they are not paid for with federal money.