Senate breaks GOP filibuster, advances 'Don't ask' repeal

A proposal to repeal the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy cleared a major hurdle Saturday in Congress when the Senate voted to end a GOP-led filibuster.

The Senate voted, 63-33, to advance a stand-alone bill that would allow openly gay and lesbian military service members, moving the second piece of legislation that was key for President Obama in the lame-duck session.

Six Republicans voted Saturday morning to bring it up for a final vote, clearing the way for final passage. They were Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSunday Shows Preview: Emmanuel Macron talks ahead of state dinner GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Overnight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign MORE (Maine), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe MORE (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio).

The Senate will vote at 3 p.m. Saturday on final passage of the repeal. It is expected to pass easily because it requires only a simple majority.

Obama pledged to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” during the 2008 campaign and came under heavy pressure from gay-rights advocacy groups to end discrimination against gays in the military.

Obama held off on pushing Congress to approve a repeal until recent months as he focused on passing healthcare reform and improving the economy.

The president told reporters at a press conference shortly after the midterm election he hoped lawmakers would approve the repeal during the lame-duck session.

Repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” appeared in doubt earlier this fall when Senate Republicans twice voted to block defense authorization legislation that included the measure. Republicans, including senators who were sympathetic to the repeal, charged that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism MORE (D-Nev.) was attempting to speed the massive defense bill through the chamber too quickly.

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican to vote to advance the defense bill with a repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” when it came to the floor Dec. 9.

The repeal gained new life, however, after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced he would separate the repeal from the broader defense bill and advance it as a free-standing measure.

The effort to repeal "Don't ask" isn't over.

The repeal measure requires the president and the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to send a certification to Congress declaring they have considered the recommendations contained in the Pentagon Working Group report on repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell."

They must also certify that the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal and that those policies are consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy established under former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWith Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker When Barbara Bush praised Bill Clinton, and Clinton praised the man she loved Meet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska MORE, will not be repealed until 60 days after Obama submits the certification to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

Supporters of the repeal credit the 10-month Pentagon report for building support in the Senate. The report concluded that allowing openly gay service members would not harm military missions and that a majority of troops would not object to the change.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed the study and pressed Congress to pass the repeal to avoid having courts resolve the issue.

Democratic leaders are on the verge of clinching a big victory for gay rights activists with only a few days to spare. If Congress had not passed the repeal before the end of the year, it would have had little chance of success next year when Republicans will control the House.

This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.