Sixteen members of the Senate Armed
Services Committee support repeal of the law that bans gay troops
from serving openly, one more than needed for repeal language to be
attached in committee, proponents say.
Committee members are expected to vote
on attaching repeal language to next year's defense budget on
Thursday after Democratic leaders and the
White House agreed to a compromise plan to repeal “Don't Ask,
Don't Tell” but delay its implementation until after the Pentagon
completes its application study due at the end of the year.
On Tuesday, Maine Senator Susan Collins
became the first – and so far only – Republican
to break from her party and declare she would vote in favor of
Other notable Republicans on the panel
– Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham – said they oppose any
effort to repeal the law until after the Pentagon completes its
“I cannot over emphasize the
importance of completing the comprehensive review prior to taking any
legislative action,” McCain wrote in a letter addressed to
committee chairman Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat. “Our
military is currently engaged in two wars and we must have a true
assessment of the impact of repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' on the
battle effectiveness prior to taking any legislative action.”
Republicans, including McCain and Roger
Wicker, have threatened to filibuster the defense authorization bill
on the Senate floor if it includes repeal language.
Once the repeal measure has been
attached in committee, Republicans would need to round up a 60-vote
majority to untie the amendment in the Senate, which includes 41
Several moderate Democrats, including
Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska,
were persuaded to come off the fence and support repeal after the
president and the Pentagon backed the compromise agreement on Monday.
“I did not want to blindly assent to
repealing this law without giving the Congress an opportunity to
re-examine the concerns of our Armed Forces and the manner in which
they are being addressed,” Byrd told CNN.
Repeal boosters also believe they can
count on Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana to vote favorably.
The House is also expected to take an
initial vote on the issue Thursday or Friday. Pennsylvania
Representative Patrick Murphy, an ardent supporter of repeal and the
lead sponsor of the measure in the House, said Tuesday that by his
head count the
measure will sail through the House.
“We have the votes to get this done,”
the Army vet said. “I have 192 co-sponsors [in the House] and
commitments from dozens of others.”