A major pro-gay rights group and a top senator expressed confidence that the Senate will repeal the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy during the lame-duck session.

Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) announcement came after a handful of GOP senators — Susan Collins (Maine), Scott Brown (Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — announced they would support standalone repeal legislation that the House passed this week.


"We now feel confident that we have the 60 votes necessary to get repeal done this session of Congress," HRC spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement. "Senators Collins, Brown and Murkowski’s commitment is proof that this unjust and discriminatory law will soon be a part of the dust-bin of history."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the upper chamber's chief proponent of repeal, appeared on MSNBC Thursday saying a cloture vote on repeal could have the support of 62 to 63 senators. 

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will likely vote to block debate on the bill, meaning that at least three Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to break a potential filibuster.

With the support of those three senators, and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), supporters of repeal likely have the votes to repeal the policy. But the only obstacle standing in the way in the Senate with the clock on the lame-duck session winding down appears to be timing.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has pledged to force a reading of the 1,900-page omnibus spending bill, which could take up to 50 hours of floor time. 

But Lieberman has sought to expedite the process, saying that a repeal vote should come before anything aside from the appropriations bill to fund the government.

Repealing DADT has to be done this year "because I'm worried that we're not going to have the votes next year. The START treaty can be ratified next year," he said on MSNBC. "The Senate majority leader certainly told me that we'll bring it to the floor."

The House passed their version of the legislation under a special order that would allow the Senate to take it up sooner than usual.

"We can't let the clock to be used as an excuse," Lieberman added. 

—Michael O'Brien contributed to this post.