Clearing the way for Senate repeal of DADT

CLEARING THE WAY FOR SENATE REPEAL OF DADT…. As of yesterday, the question wasn’t whether the votes were in place to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; it was simply a matter of finding time on the shrinking lame-duck calendar in the Senate.

But with the unexpected demise of the omnibus spending bill, there’s suddenly a window of opportunity. For those hoping to see DADT repeal pass, that’s very good news.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law this weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday evening called for the end of debate, or cloture, on a standalone bill to repeal the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

Invoking cloture means that the Senate would take a procedural vote on the repeal legislation on Saturday and a final vote on the bill by Sunday.

As Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and others had suggested, this puts DADT ahead of New START ratification on the schedule. Presumably, the arms treaty would be the very next measure to be considered before Christmas.

Whether the votes are in place no longer appears in doubt. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) endorsed repeal on Wednesday, and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was even stronger in his support yesterday morning. By mid-day, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) confirmed that she’s a “yes” as well.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced late yesterday that he will be treated for prostate cancer today, but he also expects to be on the floor to support DADT repeal.

By my count, that’s 61 votes, and if passage appears assured, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few other Republicans jumped on the bandwagon when all is said and done.

That said, it’s not quite in the bag. It’s possible that Republicans will start making demands on unnecessary amendments, prompting the party’s “moderates” to balk over procedural concerns (again). It’s hard to feel too confident when Lucy says, “No, really, Charlie, this time I’ll let you kick the ball.”

But at this point, everything appears to be lined up extremely well, and the smart money is on success by Monday.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.