Washington — In a weekend of last-minute voting ahead of the holidays, the Senate is expected to vote Saturday to end debate on the historic “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, another step toward the passage of the contentious legislation.
At least 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture, or end debate for a vote, and those numbers would pave the way for a Senate passage of the bill that would repeal the law banning openly gay and lesbian service members from the military.
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to overturn the ban 250-175. Passage of the legislation in the Senate would be a political victory for President Barack Obama and the Democrats, who have called for a repeal.
A cloture vote on the DREAM Act, a bill that offers a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children, is also expected Saturday.
Four key GOP senators who have announced their support for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal are prepared to join Democrats in voting to let the bill proceed, aides to the four said Friday.
The aides said Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts will vote Saturday to end debate on the ban.
Their backing would ensure the 60 votes needed to clear the way for the bill to advance even if Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, votes against it, as is expected.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who co-sponsored the legislation that would repeal the policy, said Friday that the four senators have “shown courage” in supporting the measure.
Lieberman said he believes that the Senate will have more than the 60 votes needed, adding that the bill’s co-sponsors had worked closely with the Defense Department in crafting its language.
But Pentagon officials are warning gay and lesbian soldiers that the current law will temporarily remain in place if the bill passes as they review the legal technicalities of the repeal.
A guidance memo would be sent to military personnel informing them of the change, which would remain in effect for at least 60 days after it is signed into law, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said.
Conservative Republicans have argued that, among other things, a repeal would place an unreasonable burden on the military at a time when it is facing severe strains in Afghanistan and elsewhere.