A repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" could pass the Senate if leaders make the issue a priority, a chief opponent of the policy said Wednesday.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said enough votes exist to break a Republican filibuster of the defense authorization bill with the repeal language included.
Lieberman said more than two Republican senators would break with their party and push through a repeal of the ban on openly gay service members during the brief lame-duck session.
Centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has indicated she supports repealing the policy but joined a GOP filibuster in September, saying Democratic leaders did not offer enough time to amend the defense bill. Several other centrist Republican senators are believed to be of the same mind as Collins.
But a letter signed by all 42 members of the Senate GOP conference threatened to block action on other legislative items until a deal on the expiring Bush era tax cuts is reached. Such time-consuming negotiations could eat up the remaining time to take care of "Don't ask, don't tell" during the lame-duck, which is expected to end by mid-December.
Supporters of repeal received a boost Tuesday when Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on the Senate to repeal the policy after the Pentagon released a study showing that allowing gays to openly serve would cause no long-term disruptions in the military.