Big Boost for Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal: Brown Backs Senate Bill

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown today voiced his support for a stand-alone repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, bringing the bill one vote over the 60-vote threshold that it will need to reach if and when the Senate votes on the measure in the coming weeks.

“Sen. Brown accepts the Pentagon’s recommendation to repeal the policy after proper preparations have been completed. If and when a clean repeal bill comes up for a vote, he will support it,” said Brown spokesperson Gail Gitcho. Brown’s backing means that – on paper – supporters of the repeal have 61 senators in favor of the bill. On Wednesday Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski both announced their support for the stand-alone repeal. The House passed the clean repeal on Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring it to a vote in the Senate before the end of the year.

However, Reid has warned that bringing the bill to a vote in the Senate is not an issue of support, but rather of time. With just over a week before Christmas, the Senate is only now kicking off debate on the START nuclear treaty and a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. It will likely be early next week before the Senate wraps up work on those two measures – and numerous GOP senators have voiced stern opposition to both bills, preferring instead to fund the government into early next year and go home for the holidays. That leaves little time for the Senate to pass the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.

“The time for action is now. We plan on considering the stand-alone bill to repeal 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' which was sent over by the House,” Reid said in a statement on Wednesday night. “But let me be clear. We are very quickly running out of days in this Congress. The time for week-long negotiations on amendments and requests for days of debate is over. Republican Senators who favor repealing this discriminatory policy need to join with us now to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress.”

Last week Reid brought the repeal – attached to the annual defense authorization bill – to a vote in the Senate, but it failed by three votes. At that time, Snowe, Murkowski, and Brown all voted against the measure on procedural grounds, arguing that more time should have been provided for amendments and debate.

Now, if the repeal is to pass, Reid has made clear that it will have to be done quickly and Republican supporters of repeal will have to put aside their desires for more time and debate on the bill.

All Democrats except for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, support repeal, so Democrats have 57 votes on that side of the aisle. Four Republicans also support repeal: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has led the charge for the stand-alone bill, plus Brown, Snowe, and Murkowski. On paper, that is 61.

The Senate’s last-ditch effort to pass the repeal comes at a crucial time, since with Republicans taking control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate when the new Congress kicks off in January, the repeal might not come up again for years.

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