Next week will be crucial for gay-rights advocates and congressional supporters of repealing the “Don't ask, don't tell” law.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (R-Maine) are working to garner support for a standalone bill to repeal the Clinton-era ban on openly gay people serving in the military. Lieberman and Collins formally introduced that bill on Friday.

The Senate this week dealt a severe blow to repeal when it fell short of the 60 votes necessary to start considering the defense authorization bill, which contains the repeal provision.

At this point the standalone repeal bill is a last-ditch effort. The strategy has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE (D-Mich.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is on standby to facilitate a successful vote in the House. Pelosi is part of the negotiations with the Senate to try to figure out the best and easiest way to pass repeal in the face of Republican opposition and a very crowded last week in session.

“Since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has broad support among Senators, our troops, and the American people, it is my hope that that the Senate will move forward with an alternative legislative method," Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday. "The bipartisan proposal from Senators Lieberman and Collins provides renewed hope that progress is still possible in the Senate; an army of allies stands ready in the House to pass a standalone repeal of the discriminatory policy once the Senate acts."

If the bill is considered as a freestanding piece of legislation, it will most likely require 60 hours of debate because of the lack of unanimous consent and two possible cloture votes.

Republicans might very well stick to their pledge to block any bills until they see approval of a tax-cut deal and legislation funding the government in 2011.

It is possible Reid, who backs repeal, will have to keep the Senate in session beyond the target adjournment date of Dec. 17 to complete the legislation. There would also be pressure on the House to stay in session to get it done.