Sen. Joseph Lieberman said party leaders are the last remaining obstacles to a vote that would likely lead to the repeal the policy barring open gays from serving in the military.
Surrounding by more than a dozen like-minded Democratic lawmakers, Mr. Lieberman called on Senate Majority Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, to iron out procedural differences that prevented the Defense Authorization Bill, which includes the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” from passing earlier this year.
Procedural hurdles bottled up the bill in Senate in September when it fell short of the 60-vote threshold it needed to move it to the floor for a vote.
On Thursday, Mr. Lieberman said that if leaders can agree on a deal that removes the procedural hurdles, then he is confident that Democrats could corral the 60 votes needed this time to overcome Republican objections and advance the bill to the floor.
“If that separates the military from getting all it deserves from the Defense Authorization Bill, including the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, then shame on us,” the Connecticut independent said.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, continues to express a willingness to move the bill forward if the procedural problems are cleared up.
“She indicated in a floor speech in September that she wanted to vote for the defense authorization bill, and supports repeal,” Miss Collins’ spokesman Kevin Kelly said. “Her issue at the time was that Majority Leader Reid had said he would not allow any Republican amendments to the bill at the time. She was opposed to that process, which shut Republicans out of the debate.”
Mr. Reid has indicated the Senate will reconsider next month an end to the policy and some expect the Nevada Democrat to allow senators of both parties to offer amendments to the bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, continues to oppose the repeal and has called for more studies on the subject, while threatening to filibuster the bill.
Winning Miss Collins’ support could go a long way in helping President Obama fulfill his pledge to lift the ban.
The debate heated up earlier this year after after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the policy should be ended.
Many Republicans have said the policy should remain in place until the military releases it official recommendations on implementing the proposed change.