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August 30, 2014

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Harry Reid looks to secure 60 votes for ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

It seems possible now: a repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" can pass.

Harry Reid got a pledge for what’s likely to be his 60th, filibuster-proofing vote in support of repealing the military’s long-standing policy against gays serving openly in the military Friday morning when Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who replaced the late Ted Kennedy, announced his intention to back the legislation.

Whether it actually passes now is primarily a question of where Reid puts the bill on his lame-duck schedule.

Earlier this week, all 42 members of the Senate Republican caucus said they would vote to block any bill that Reid tried to raise before the Senate passes a tax cut extension and sets a budget for the coming months.

The Senate did pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 18, and the Senate is expected to take its opening tax votes this weekend, although on bills that most GOP senators aren’t expected to support.

Reid needs at least two Republicans to support the legislation, in order the pull together the requisite 60 votes to guarantee that the measure -- which is part and parceled with the defense authorization bill -- will not be filibustered as it was the first time he tried to bring it to a vote in September.

Then, GOP senators, led by Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain, led a hard charge against repealing the policy, arguing primarily that the Defense Department had not had a chance to complete an ongoing survey of military personnel querying whether gays serving openly in the military would have a positive or negative effect.

That study has since concluded and the results revealed that about 70 percent thought that allowing gays to serve openly would have either a positive effect or no effect on the day-to-day functioning of the military.

But McCain and many other Republicans have now begun to question the substance of the survey — only 28 percent of active servicepersons responded, and the direct question: should the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy be repealed — did not appear on the survey.

Democrats in the Senate all supported the procedural vote to take up the defense authorization bill, complete with a repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," in September. It’s expected that they’ll do so again.

A handful of moderate Republicans — including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Nevada Sen. John Ensign — have also indicated they could be votes in favor of a repeal this time around.

But to this point, only Maine Sen. Susan Collins has said firmly that she supports a legislative repeal, and voted for including it in the defense authorization bill in the Armed Services Committee.

Brown’s vote is potentially influential not only because it would represent a Republican switch — he voted against including a repeal in the overall defense authorization bill when it was going through committee — but because he’s also the Senate’s only actively serving member of the military, as a member of the National Guard.

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