This morning, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) — who told a local newspaper last month that he considered homosexuality a “sin” — released a statement saying that he accepted the military’s recommendations on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and would move to vote to the measure in the lame duck session of the Senate. From his statement:
On many previous occasions, I have said that I would oppose repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until I had heard from our servicemen and women regarding this policy. I have now carefully reviewed all of the findings, reports, and testimony from our armed forces on this matter and I accept the Pentagon’s recommendations to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I also accept the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ commitment that this policy can be implemented in a manner that does not harm our military’s readiness, recruitment, or retention. We have the strongest military in the world and we will continue to do so by ensuring our troops have the resources necessary to carry out their missions. Therefore, I support the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee and will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year.
With Pryor’s commitment, the only Democratic vote that’s still in contention is that of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who has expressed concern about overturning the policy during a time of war and, as of this writing, remains “undecided” on how to vote. If he is ultimately willing to vote on cloture, Democrats would need just two Republicans to proceed to the measure. With Sens. Brown’s, Collins’ and possibly Lugar’s support, it’s very likely that they will have more than 60 votes for the NDAA.
But it remains to be seen if Democrats will have enough time to debate the measure and if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is willing to keep the Senate in session past Christmas to ensure a “fair” process that will bring more Republicans on board. Earlier this morning, Reid took to the floor to announce that he’s “likely” to bring up the NDAA “this evening”:
REID: And I’m likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the defense authorization act this evening. Allowing, as I will indicate at that time, time for amendments to that piece of legislation.
At this point, it’s unclear if those Republicans who support DADT repeal are willing to vote for cloture before considering taxes and other priorities.
Politico’s Josh Gerstein points out that many advocates don’t think there are enough votes to move to the measure this evening:
However, a Senate aide working on the repeal effort and prominent gay rights advocate expressed strong concerns Wednesday morning that “don’t ask” repeal will die if called up Wednesday because Republicans supportive of repeal have publicly pledged that they will insist that the Senate act first on taxes.
“This it the bottom line: premature consideration will have the net effect of killing the repeal. This could happen today,” said the Senate aide, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive internal discussions about timing of the defense bill. “We are very, very concerned at the moment that if it is considered today it will merely fail and that will be the end of the repeal.”
“The way that this is being brought up is a bit [messed] up and may be a recipe for failure. Reid’s office is rationalizing that having the rubber hit the road will force the moderate Republicans to make a decision,” said the gay rights advocate, who also asked not to be further identified. “It’s a high stakes gamble.”
Asked why Reid, a repeal supporter, would move the bill in a way that might lead to its failure, the Senate aide said: “He wants to clear the decks. He’s got a bunch of bills and my sense is he wants to dispose of them and the clock is ticking and he has to consider both the tax cut bill and a CR.”