Update, 6:15 p.m. ET:
LGBT|POV is reporting that, according to their sources, the U.S. Senate will not take up any more votes tonight -– including the expected vote on the Defense Authorization bill. Senators are now negotiating when and how to bring up the defense bill with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal intact – as well as other bills, including the DREAM Act.
Republican senators who support the DADT repeal -– such as Sen. Susan Collins — reportedly said they would not vote on the defense bill until after the tax bill was decided.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced today that he is likely to hold a procedural vote, as early as this evening, on a bill that would end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay service members.
“I’m likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the Defense Authorization Act this evening, allowing, as I will indicate at that time, time for amendments to that piece of legislation,” he said.
But some backers of the repeal think a vote this soon is premature, and expressed strong concerns that a “don’t ask” repeal will die if called up Wednesday, because Republicans supportive of repeal have publicly pledged that they will insist the Senate act first on taxes.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a vocal critic of a Pentagon study released last week, has vowed to filibuster attempts to move the Defense Authorization Bill forward.
Assuming every member of the Democratic caucus votes for the DADT repeal (which is not a given at this point), Reid only has 58 votes — 2 votes shy of the 60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster.
But earlier today, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) — who told a local newspaper last month that he considered homosexuality a “sin” — released a statement saying that he accepted the military’s recommendations on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and would move to vote to the measure in the lame duck session of the Senate.
With Pryor’s commitment, the only Democratic vote that remains undecided is that of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has expressed concern about overturning the policy during a time of war.
Pryor is not the only senator to decide to support the repeal after reviewing the Pentagon’s report.
Last Friday two moderate Republicans from New England -– Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), signaled support the repeal.
Collins said she is willing to support repeal if Reid holds the vote after the tax and spending bills and allows for a fair debate process. Brown was more decisive, saying, “When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight.”
Update, 4:00 p.m. ET:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has decided to support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, reports the Washington Post, potentially adding another crucial Republican vote to the “yes” column and putting 60 votes within reach.
Like Collins, Murkowski’s vote comes with the stipulation that Democrats allow enough amendments for the debate to be deemed “open.”
Murkowski’s spokesman, Michael Brumas said, “Her vote will depend on how free and open the amendment process is, but she has reached the decision that don’t ask don’t tell ought to be repealed.”
AMERICAblog reports that its sources tell them President Obama has been calling members of the Senate today, including Republicans, on behalf of the DADT compromise.
Today’s developments have caught many LGBT activist groups by surprise.
On Tuesday, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network announced plans to hold a rally Friday at the U.S. Capitol to protest the Senate’s failure to vote on the DADT repeal — more than a dozen activist groups have signed on to participate in the protest.