Senate backers launch last-ditch effort to repeal military's gay ban

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 Collins (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 Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (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.

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