Centrist Dem senator supports repealing 'Don't ask, don't tell'

A key centrist Democratic senator said Wednesday that he now favors repealing the military's ban on openly gay service members.

Sen. Mark Pyor (Ark.) explained that he was convinced by the results of the Pentagon's 10-month study that showed repealing "Don't ask, don't tell" would not have adverse long-term effects on the military.

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"I accept the Pentagon’s recommendations to repeal 'Don’t ask, don’t tell.' I also accept the secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ commitment that this policy can be implemented in a manner that does not harm our military’s readiness, recruitment or retention," he said in a statement. "I support the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee and will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year."

Pryor's support give credence to claims from supporters of repeal that they have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster of the defense authorization bill, with the repeal of the military's ban attached. Pryor is not up for reelection until 2014.

Two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts — have also said they support a repeal.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not been able to bring the legislation up for a vote during the lame-duck session, which he wants to conclude by Dec. 17. Senate Republicans have threatened to block all other action until Congress passes an extension of the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.

Media reports late Tuesday indicated that Reid could bring the defense bill up for a vote this week if the GOP blocks a series of legislation up for votes on Wednesday, including the DREAM Act. That would likely put Collins and Snowe in a bind between their leadership and their stated positions on the issue.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — a chief proponent of reform — has said he wants the Senate to stay in session until "Don't ask, don't tell" is repealed.