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Senate set to vote on repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday to consider legislation to repeal the ban on gay personnel in the military -- possibly the last chance in the foreseeable future to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the face of GOP opposition.

Democratic leaders are working to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans to allow more time to debate the broader defense authorization bill that would include repeal of the ban. Several GOP senators have indicated that they support the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but need ample time for debate on the underlying defense legislation.

A chief sponsor of repealing the ban, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has said the Senate should remain in session through the holiday season to pass the bill, which he calls the key civil rights issue of this era.

Failing to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” before Congress adjourns would be a blow to a top Obama administration priority and would end the effort for the foreseeable future. When the new Congress convenes in January, the effort would face opposition from an emboldened GOP in both the House and Senate.

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The White House intensified lobbying to urge senators to reach a deal.

“The president has been reaching out to senators from both sides of the aisle to reiterate his desire to see Congress pass the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ during the lame-duck [session],” White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said Wednesday.

Republicans in the Senate have said they will unanimously block any bill until an agreement is reached to extend tax cuts that expire by year’s end.

A Pentagon report has said that repealing the ban that had been installed during the Clinton administration would not substantially disrupt the military, even during wartime as troops are engaged in Afghanistan.

In the report, a majority of service members said they would not object to serving with gay troops, though the Marine commandant has expressed concerns about repealing the ban while troops are engaged in combat.

lmascaro@tribune.com


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